If Not Fickell Or Meyer, Then Who?

For nearly six decades between 1951 and 2011, only four men occupied the head football coach’s office at Ohio State.

During those 60 years, Earle Bruce had the shortest tenure – nine years – and he won more than 75 percent of his games. Woody Hayes set the standard with a school-record 28 seasons, three consensus national championships and 13 Big Ten titles as well as a winning percentage of .761.

John Cooper was the head man for 13 seasons beginning in 1988 and despite all the criticism he endured, Coop still won at a 71.5-percent clip. His successor was Jim Tressel, who won seven Big Ten championships in 10 seasons, the 2002 national title and an .828 winning percentage.

What else do Bruce, Hayes, Coop and Tress all have in common? None of them left Ohio State on his own terms.

Once upon a time, before university officials decided continuity was a good thing, Ohio State was known as “The Graveyard of Coaches,” a particularly derisive nickname among the college football hierarchy. But it was a moniker well-deserved. During the 23-year period between 1929 and 1951 when Hayes was hired, the university had burned through six coaches including a future College Football Hall of Famer (Francis A. Schmidt), a future Pro Football Hall of Famer (Paul Brown) and a former local hero (three-time OSU All-American Wes Fesler).

Of the six coaches during that period, only Brown and his successor Carroll Widdoes left Ohio State of their own accord – Brown to join the U.S. Navy and serve in World War II, Widdoes because he didn’t like the pressure that came with being a head coach. Evidently that sentiment extended only to Ohio State since Widdoes later went to Ohio University and spent nine seasons as head coach there.

To be perfectly honest, Ohio State was a graveyard for coaches long before 1929. The Buckeyes had 12 different head coaches – including one that served two separate stints – between 1895 and 1913. Five of those coaches were with the team only one season, and the team had a different coach every season from 1909 to 1913.

After last weekend’s showing at Miami (Fla.), those in the Buckeye Nation convinced Luke Fickell is not yet ready for any head coaching assignment – let alone piloting one of college football’s elite programs – are more than ready to resurrect “The Graveyard of Coaches.”

The ready-made successor, of course, is Urban Meyer, the owner of an impressive résumé that includes being a native Ohioan, serving two seasons on Bruce’s coaching staff at OSU, earning a master’s degree in sports administration from Ohio State, sporting an .819 career winning percentage and winning two national championships in a three-year span at Florida.

There is something of a monkey wrench in Meyer suddenly appearing on the OSU sideline in 2012, however. The timing might not be right for him to take the job.

Meyer retired (his word, not mine) from Florida after last season, citing health problems and a desire to spend more time with his family. We all know that spending more time with one’s family is often a hollow reason cited for walking away. Anyone remember Michael Jordan saying he wanted to spend more time with his family and then spending the following summer riding a bus through the Deep South while attempting to play minor-league baseball?

In Meyer’s case, though, spending more time with his family is a plausible reason for walking away from football. He has three children, including daughters who play volleyball at Georgia Tech and Florida Gulf Coast, respectively. Yes, Meyer has taken an analyst’s job at ESPN this year, but he can easily jet to wherever the Worldwide Leader assigns him and be back home in plenty of time to watch his daughters play volleyball.

Even if Meyer reneged on the spending-more-time-with-family thing, his health is apparently no joke. He is still only 47, but has experienced several health problems all related to stress.

Meyer stepped away from his duties at Florida for a couple of months following the 2009 season after which his health seemed to improve. But when he quickly returned to the sideline for last season, the stress returned and his health rapidly deteriorated again. Frequent chest pains, severe headaches brought on by a brain cyst – each malady diagnosed as stress-related – conspired to send Meyer into a forced retirement.

The question now is if Meyer will ever return to coaching, and if he does, will he or can he return to being the relentless recruiter and tireless offensive brainiac that placed him at the top of his profession? If the answer is yes, then any team out there will consider itself lucky to get him. If the answer is no, however, what then?

What white knight would Ohio State fans have come charging to the rescue should Fickell not be renewed for 2012 and Meyer not make himself available? (And please don’t say Bob Stoops or Jon Gruden. Stoops is not leaving Oklahoma and Gruden will coach again in the NFL or not at all.)

Nick Saban of Alabama? He has 4 million reasons every year not to leave Tuscaloosa.

Gary Pinkel of Missouri? He’ll be 60 next April and his career win percentage in 20-plus seasons at Toledo and Mizzou is a hardly eye-popping .634.

Mark Dantonio of Michigan State? Past heart problems, a career .589 winning percentage and close ties to Tressel. That’s three strikes and you’re out.

Les Miles of LSU? The Board of Trustees is not going there. Besides, the last time Ohio State hired an alum from That School Up North to be its head football coach was 1906.

Mike Stoops of Arizona? Just because he is Bob’s little brother doesn’t mean he is Bob’s clone. Mike’s 1-2 start with the Wildcats this season puts his career record at 41-47.

Mark Stoops, defensive coordinator at Florida State? See above. Plus he’s never been a head coach.

Bo Pelini of Nebraska? Temperament seems to be an issue as do his interviewing skills. You have to at least wonder why he has made nine different stops in a 20-year coaching career.

My point is be careful what you wish for. Secretly hoping Fickell will fail just to pave the way for Meyer could be an exercise in futility because if he’s not ready to come back or simply doesn’t want the job, the other options just don’t seem all that inviting.

OSU-COLORADO TIDBITS

** Ohio State is 3-1 all-time against Colorado. The teams last met in 1986 when the Buckeyes took a 13-10 victory at Ohio Stadium. OSU’s other victories in the series came in 1985, a 36-13 verdict in Boulder, and a 27-10 triumph at the 1977 Orange Bowl. That marked the final bowl victory of Woody Hayes’ coaching career. Colorado scored its only win of the series with a 20-14 decision in Columbus in 1971.

** The game came about as the result of Colorado opening the season at Hawaii. Schools that travel to Hawaii are permitted a 13th regular-season game to help offset the expense of such a trip. Ohio State was looking for a home game to fill out its schedule, so the game came into being late last fall when the schedule-makers at ESPN noticed the open Sept. 24 weekend for both teams and suggested they play one another. CU agreed on the contingent that the game would be televised nationally.

** The game pits a couple of first-year head coaches who are alums and longtime assistant coaches at their respective schools. Luke Fickell was a four-year starter at Ohio State from 1993-96 who spent nine years on Jim Tressel’s staff from 2002-10. Joe Embree was an All-Big Eight tight end and served for 10 seasons under three different Colorado head coaches – Bill McCartney (1993-94), Rick Neuheisel (1995-98) and Gary Barnett (1999-2002).

** The Buckeyes are 55-26-2 all-time against current members of the Pac-12. In addition their record against the Buffaloes, they are 9-13-1 vs. USC, 8-0 vs. Oregon and Washington State, 8-3 vs. Washington, 5-1 vs. California, 4-4-1 vs. UCLA, 3-1 vs. Arizona, 2-0 vs. Arizona State and Oregon State, 1-0 vs. Utah and 2-3 vs. Stanford.

** The Buffaloes are 35-63-3 all-time against current members of the Big Ten. In addition to its record against Ohio State, CU is 18-49-2 vs. Nebraska, 4-1-1 vs. Wisconsin, 3-1 vs. Indiana, 3-0 vs. Minnesota, 2-0 vs. Iowa, 1-1 vs. Illinois, Northwestern and Penn State, 1-3 vs. Michigan and 0-3 vs. Michigan State. Colorado and Purdue have never played one another in football.

** OSU fell out of the Associated Press’ top 25 this week for the first time since Nov. 20, 2004. It ended the nation’s longest active streak in the AP rankings at 103 straight weeks.

** The Buffaloes have not enjoyed a winning season since going 7-6 in 2005. Since then, they are a combined 22-42

** Colorado is working on a school-record streak of 18 consecutive road losses (not counting neutral sites). The Buffaloes haven’t won a true road contest since a 31-26 triumph at Texas Tech in October 2007.

** OSU and Colorado enter the game on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of penalties. The Buckeyes have been flagged only nine times for 67 yards in three games while the Buffaloes have been whistled 29 times for 270 yards.

** Ohio State’s last two opponents have each topped 300 yards of total offense marking the first time in seven years that has occurred against the Buckeyes. Toledo totaled 338 yards while Miami (Fla.) went for 363, marking the first back-to-back 300-yard games the OSU defense has allowed since a three-game streak in 2004 against Michigan State (407), Purdue (384) and Michigan (399).

** Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen will be seeking to end a streak of futility his predecessors have had against Ohio State. In their four previous meetings with the Buckeyes, CU quarterbacks have combined to throw for only 239 yards on 18-for-50 passing with two touchdowns against eight interceptions.

** Colorado is one of only nine Division I-A team with just one turnover so far in 2011, and the Buffaloes have gone back-to-back games without turning the ball over for only the sixth time in their history. No CU team has ever gone three straight games without a turnover.

** Colorado hosted Cal for its Sept. 10 home opener, but the game did not count in the Pac-12 standings. The game completed a previous home-and-home series between the two schools that was agreed upon before the Buffaloes joined the conference this year. As strange as that might sound, it isn’t the first time CU has played an opponent from its own league when it didn’t count in the conference standings. The Buffaloes played Northern Colorado in 1923 when both teams were members of the Rocky Mountain Faculty Athletic Conference, but it didn’t count as a league game because Northern Colorado designated only two games on its schedule that season as conference encounters.

** Ohio State president Dr. E. Gordon Gee was president of the University of Colorado from 1985 to 1990. Gee left Boulder to become OSU president in 1990 and stayed through 1997 when he moved on to Brown (1998-2000) and later Vanderbilt (2001-07). Gee returned to Columbus in October 2007.

** The game will be televised by ABC/ESPN2 using the reverse mirror. (In case you have forgotten how the reverse mirror works, the game should be televised by your local ABC affiliate. If the game is not on that channel, look for it on ESPN2.) Veteran play-by-play man Mike Patrick will have the call along with former SMU running back Craig James providing color analysis. Kickoff is set for shortly after 3:30 p.m. Eastern.

** Next week, Ohio State kicks off the Big Ten season by hosting Michigan State. It will be an interdivisional contest since the Buckeyes are in the new Leaders Division while the Spartans are in the Legends. The game is set for a kickoff shortly after 3:30 p.m. Eastern and will be telecast again by ABC using ESPN on the reverse mirror.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Sept. 21, 1996, fourth-ranked Florida outgunned No. 2 Tennessee by a 35-29 final in Knoxville. The Gators raced out to a 35-6 halftime lead behind four TD passes by Danny Weurffel, but the Volunteers came back to make it close on three second-half scoring throws by Peyton Manning, who set a school record with 492 passing yards. The game was played in front of 107,608 fans at Neyland Stadium, then the largest on-campus crowd in college football history.

** Also on Sept. 21, 1996, linebacker Pat Tillman led the Arizona State defense to a 19-0 victory over top-ranked Nebraska, the first shutout of a No. 1 team since 1978.

** On Sept. 22, 1956, Notre Dame lost for the first time ever in September when unranked SMU scored a 19-13 upset in Dallas over the third-ranked Fighting Irish.

** On Sept. 22, 1990, Illinois tailback Howard Griffith set an NCAA record when he rushed for eight touchdowns during his team’s 56-21 romp over Southern Illinois in Champaign. Griffith tallied three of his TDs on consecutive carries and tied an NCAA record with four touchdowns in the third quarter. It was the most points ever scored in a college football game by a non-kicker.

** On Sept. 23, 1961, Rice stunned No. 5 LSU by a 16-3 score in front of a record home crowd of 73,000 in Houston. The Owls got a pair of touchdowns from quarterback Billy Cox and held the vaunted LSU offense, which featured future College Football Hall of Fame running back Jerry Stovall, to only a field goal.

** On Sept. 23, 1972, Purdue quarterback Gary Danielson ran for a career-high 213 yards but it wasn’t enough as 15th-ranked Washington erased a 21-0 halftime deficit and beat the Boilermakers, 22-21, in West Lafayette.

** On Sept. 24, 1983, seventh-ranked Iowa smothered No. 3 Ohio State during a 20-14 triumph in Iowa City. OSU quarterback Mike Tomczak entered the game as the nation’s leader in passing efficiency, but completed only 13 of 34 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. The victory snapped a 16-game losing streak for Iowa in the series. The Hawkeyes hadn’t beaten the Buckeyes since 1962.

** On Sept. 24, 1988, Wyoming engineered erased a seven-point deficit in the final 90 seconds to score a 48-45 victory over Air Force. The Cowboys trailed by a 45-38 score when fullback Steve Bena scored on a 9-yard run with 1:30 showing on the clock. Wyoming kicked the PAT to tie the score, and then with just 45 seconds left, Air Force QB Dee Dowis lost a fumble at his own 42-yard line. That set the stage for freshman kicker Sean Fleming’s 27-yard field goal as time expired to give Wyoming the win.

** On Sept. 24, 2000, Penn State defensive back Adam Taliaferro was seriously injured near the end of his team’s 45-6 loss at Ohio State. Taliaferro was paralyzed from the neck down but thanks to quick action by doctors and trainers at Ohio Stadium, as well as the staff at the Ohio State Medical Center and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Taliaferro – after about eight months of intense rehabilitation – was able to regain full function of his arms and legs. He later graduated from Penn State before earned a law degree from Rutgers, and he is currently a practicing attorney in New Jersey specializing in corporate litigation.

** On Sept. 25, 1948, Michigan took a 13-7 win over Michigan State in East Lansing, giving U-M head coach Bennie Oosterbaan his first victory in his first game as head coach. Michigan went on to finish the 1948 season with a perfect 9-0 record, marking the first time in college football history a head coach had achieved an undefeated season in his first year on the job. The feat has since been duplicated four times, most recently by Larry Coker of Miami (Fla.) in 2001.

** On Sept. 25, 1959, Georgia Tech linebacker Gerald Burch intercepted SMU quarterback Don Meredith with 1:32 remaining in the game to clinch a 16-12 victory for the Yellow Jackets over the No. 6 Mustangs.

** On Sept. 25, 1971, Michigan State head coach Duffy Daugherty notched career win No. 100 when the Spartans took a 31-14 victory over Oregon State in East Lansing. Future College Football Hall of Fame safety Brad Van Pelt returned two interceptions for touchdowns to fuel MSU’s win.

** On Sept. 26, 1953, a pair of legendary coaches – Frank Leahy of Notre Dame and Bud Wilkinson of Oklahoma – patrolled the sidelines as the top-ranked Fighting Irish went to Norman and scored a 28-21 victory over the No. 6 Sooners. The loss was Oklahoma’s first in 15 home games and would the Sooners’ last defeat until 1957 when they would achieve an NCAA-record 47 consecutive victories.

** On Sept. 26, 1992, Hawaii kicker Jason Elam hit three field goals, including a 56-yarder, to help the Warriors to a 36-32 win in Honolulu over BYU.

** On Sept. 27, 1986, second-ranked Miami (Fla.) rolled to a 28-16 win over defending national champion and top-ranked Oklahoma. Three future College Hall of Famers were on the Orange Bowl sidelines that day – Miami safety Bennie Blades, Oklahoma tight end Keith Jackson and Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer – but the afternoon belonged to eventual Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde. The Miami QB threw for 261 yards and four touchdowns against the Sooners.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** When Auburn lost a 34-28 decision at Clemson on Saturday, it snapped the nation’s longest winning streak at 17 games. Stanford now has the longest Division I-A win streak at 11.

** On the flip side of that coin, San Jose State has the longest current I-A losing streak at 13. There is a silver lining for the Spartans, however. They are double-digit favorites at home tomorrow against New Mexico State, which has lost 19 of its last 22 overall.

** Former Minnesota halfback Bruce Smith was honored by his old school Saturday prior to the Golden Gophers’ win over Miami (Ohio). Smith, who died of cancer in 1967, was honored as the school marked the 70th anniversary of his 1941 Heisman Trophy season. Smith is Minnesota’s only Heisman winner, and he received the stiff-arm trophy two days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Smith, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1972, served as a U.S. Navy fighter pilot in World War II.

** Even with crazy old Mike Leach long gone, Texas Tech is still throwing the ball all over the field. QB Seth Doege completed 40 of 44 passes for 401 yards and five TDs last weekend during a 59-13 romp over New Mexico. Doege’s completion percentage of 90.9 percent established a new single-game Division I-A record for anyone with at least 40 completions.

** Tech piled up 624 total yards in that game, but even that paled in comparison to what Missouri did against Western Illinois on Saturday. The Tigers went for 744 yards during their 69-0 wipeout of the I-AA Leathernecks – 428 on the ground, 316 through the air. The yardage total set a single-game school record, breaking the previous mark of 665 yards set against Kansas in 1949.

** Georgia Tech did even better than Missouri, piling up a school-record 768 yards during a 66-24 win over Kansas. That broke the old mark of 706 set in 1948 against The Citadel. Most of the Yellow Jackets’ yardage came on the ground – 604 of it to be exact. That also broke the school’s single-game mark of 558 set against VMI in 1975.

** Speaking of the Yellow Jackets, they have been almost unbelievably efficient so far, scoring a touchdown on their first play from scrimmage in each of their first three games. Against Kansas, they bettered even themselves – they scored on their first play from scrimmage in each half.

** Baylor has a bona fide Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Robert Griffin III. He completed 20 of 22 passes for 265 yards and three TDs during the Bears’ 48-0 shutout of I-AA Stephen F. Austin. In two games, Griffin is 41 of 49 (83.7 percent) for 624 yards, eight TDs and no interceptions. Yes, you read that correctly – he has the same number of touchdown passes as incompletions.

** Did you catch Oklahoma State’s entertaining 59-33 win over Tulsa? Me either. Because of lightning and storms in the Tulsa area at kickoff time, the game did not begin until after midnight Sunday and finished at 3:35 a.m. Afterward, Okie State head coach Mike Gundy offered this salient observation: “I’m not sure why we had TV timeouts at 3 o’clock in the morning.”

** Congratulations are in order for several teams off to hot starts. San Diego State is 3-0 for the first time since 1981, Ohio University is 3-0 for the first time since 1976 and Florida International is 3-0 for the first time in program history.

** Here is the earliest bowl invitation on record: Navy has agreed to play in the 2016 Armed Forces Bowl. The invitation is predicated, of course, on the Midshipmen being bowl-eligible that year. Any Navy freshmen eligible to participate in that bowl are currently playing for their eighth-grade middle school team.

FEARLESS FORECAST

While commiserating over picking Ohio State to lose last week, we lost sight of the fact that we had another excellent week. We were 9-1 straight up, which pushes the season total to a stellar 28-4 so far. Better still, we’re way above the money line against the spread after last week’s 8-2 finish. That makes us 15-5 over the past two weeks and 19-10-1 ATS for the young season. It also means we’re playing with house money now.

Here are the games we like this week:

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Missouri at No. 1 Oklahoma: The Sooners enter this game looking for redemption since the Tigers handed them a 36-27 upset loss last season. For all intents and purposes, that loss knocked OU out of the national title picture, so the team has a little something extra to play for this week. None more than QB Landry Jones, who failed to complete a fourth-quarter pass against Mizzou last year. Of course, Oklahoma will have to try to slow down the Tigers who piled up more than 700 yards of offense last week during a 69-0 win over I-AA Western Illinois. Of course, the Sooners represent just a tad of an upgrade in competition from the Leathernecks … Oklahoma 28, Missouri 14. (8 p.m. ET, FX)

No. 2 LSU at No. 16 West Virginia: The Bayou Bengals invade Morgantown trying to keep their national title aspirations alive, but it won’t be as easy as some might think. The Mountaineers have a potent offense while LSU is still trying to find its offensive identity. Defensively, the Tigers should have the edge. After all, they faced a Mississippi State team last week that had averaged 46.5 points and 588.0 yards in its first two games and held the Bulldogs to 193 total yards in a 19-6 win. Something obviously has to give – West Virginia has won 16 of its last 17 at home while LSU has a regular-season winning streak of 35 in a row against nonconference opponents … LSU 27, West Virginia 14. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 14 Arkansas at No. 3 Alabama: Despite the loss of quarterback Ryan Mallett to the NFL, the Razorbacks are 3-0 with their potent offense pretty much intact as they invade Bryant-Denny Stadium this weekend. Unfortunately, the problem with most Bobby Petrino teams, the defense is not quite up the level of the offense. Last week during a 38-28 victory over Troy, the Hogs surrendered 457 total yards. That simply will not get it done against the Tide … Alabama 32, Arkansas 17. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

Tulsa at No. 4 Boise State: We’ll make this one short and sweet. Broncos QB Kellen Moore is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate as his 40-2 record as a starter attests. So far this year, he has completed 60 of 76 attempts (78.9 percent) for 716 yards and eight touchdowns, and Moore gets to pad those stats against a Golden Hurricane defense that ranks among the worst in the country against the pass. Add that to the fact Boise has won 60 straight at home against unranked opponents and you get this … Boise State 45, Tulsa 14. (8 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

South Dakota at No. 6 Wisconsin: It’s not completely clear how good the Badgers really are after three victories over lesser opponents, and the jury is likely to remain sequestered as they take on the Division I-AA Coyotes this week. South Dakota already has a victory over a I-A opponent this year, but that was against Minnesota and the Golden Gophers are no Wisconsin. Look for the Badgers to roll again this week and then gauge how really good they are next week when Nebraska invades Camp Randall … Wisconsin 38, South Dakota 10. (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN)

No. 9 Nebraska at Wyoming: Speaking of Nebraska, the Cornhuskers are already champing at the bit to get their inaugural Big Ten season started. First of all, though, they have to travel to play in the rarefied air of Laramie. NU head coach Bo Pelini has made his reputation on being a defensive guru, but his Black Shirts remain a work in progress. They have given up more than 400 yards of offense in each of the past two games, something that definitely needs fixed before traveling to Wisconsin next week. It might need fixing before going to Wyoming since the Cowboys rank No. 16 in the nation in total offense, averaging 492.3 yards of total offense per game. This might be an entertaining game to watch … Nebraska 38, Wyoming 20. (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus)

Vanderbilt at No. 12 South Carolina: Surprise, surprise. Steve Spurrier has a Heisman Trophy candidate and he’s not a quarterback. Sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore burst on the scene last year and seems to have a limitless upside. Last week, Lattimore ran for 246 yards and three touchdowns as the Gamecocks squeezed out a 24-21 victory over Navy. Expect more of the same against the Commodores, who are a surprising 3-0 because of an opportunistic defense that has already snagged 10 interceptions and returned three of them for touchdowns … South Carolina 24, Vanderbilt 17. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Rice at No. 17 Baylor: This intrastate battle will feature a pair of pretty good quarterbacks – one you probably know and one you probably don’t. Baylor is led by Robert Griffin III, who is steadily rising up everyone’s Heisman charts after having completely 41 of his first 49 pass attempts this season for eight TDs and no interceptions. Meanwhile, the Owls will counter with Taylor McHargue, who threw for a career-high 230 yards against Purdue two weeks ago in a 24-22 win over the Boilermakers. Unfortunately for McHargue, his team’s defense gives up yardage by the bunches and that will make the difference … Baylor 45, Rice 20. (7 p.m. ET, FSN)

San Diego State at No. 22 Michigan: The Wolverines could have a short stay back in the top 25 if the Aztecs have anything to say about it. SDSU rolls into Ann Arbor with a bunch of players still angry about the way former head coach Brady Hoke bolted after last season to take the Michigan job. And it’s not as if the Aztecs aren’t any good. Hoke built a pretty good program that is 3-0 and coming off a 42-24 pounding of Washington State last week. A couple of things are conspiring against the upset, though. First, the Aztecs have to fly three time zones east and play at what would normally be 9 a.m. for them. And they have seen nothing like Wolverines QB Denard Robinson, whom Hoke has finally allowed to have free reign over the U-M offense … Michigan 35, San Diego State 28. (12 noon ET, BTN)

Colorado at Ohio State: Perhaps last week’s 24-6 loss to Miami (Fla.) served its purpose by radically exposing the Buckeyes’ weaknesses and giving the coaching staff a close-up look at where the various leaks are located. Ready or not, freshman Braxton Miller will get the start at quarterback and his athleticism will help. But the Buckeyes will have to throw the ball – at least a little – to be successful, and that makes picking this game a little more of a crapshoot … Ohio State 20, Colorado 16. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Missouri (+21½) at Oklahoma; LSU (-5½) at West Virginia; Arkansas at Alabama (-11); Tulsa at Boise State (-28); South Dakota at Wisconsin (NL); Nebraska at Wyoming (+23½); Vanderbilt (+16) at South Carolina; Rice at Baylor (-20); San Diego State (+10½) at Michigan; Colorado (+16½) at Ohio State.

Enjoy the games and we’ll see you next week.

Déjà Vu? Season Has Distinctive ’08 Feel So Far

See if any of this sounds familiar.

Ohio State whips up on an undermanned foe in the season opener, yielding less than 100 total yards on defense and rolling to a shutout victory by more than 40 points. The following week, the Buckeyes inexplicably fall behind an instate opponent from the Mid-American Conference before making a comeback – which includes getting a touchdown on a 69-yard punt return.

Now, in the week three, OSU gets ready for a primetime road game in a place that hasn’t been very friendly to them in the past. The Buckeyes enter the game with their No. 1 tailback unavailable, causing some consternation in the offensive game-planning. And there is a fifth-year senior at quarterback with an ultra-talented freshman behind him, biding his time before he gets his chance at glory.

The aforementioned isn’t a rehash of what has happened so far this season for the Ohio State football team. It is an instant replay of the start of the 2008 season, featuring so many similarities it is quite simply mind-boggling.

In 2008, the Buckeyes began the season against Division I-AA Youngstown State and ground the Penguins into dust, allowing a mere 64 yards en route to a 43-0 victory.

Two weeks ago, Ohio State put on an uncannily similar performance against Akron, holding the Zips to only 90 total yards during a 42-0 win.

In 2008, the Buckeyes followed their powerful season-opening win with a lackluster victory over instate MAC rival Ohio. The Bobcats held a 14-6 lead in the second half before Ohio State came back to secure a 26-14 triumph helped in part by Ray Small’s 69-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Last week, OSU fell behind instate MAC rival Toledo before a comeback – fueled in part by a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown by Chris Fields – allowed the Buckeyes to pull out a 27-22 decision.

That brings us to week three of the season. In 2008, Ohio State traveled to USC for a nationally televised night game in the L.A. Coliseum, a place where the Buckeyes hadn’t done very well over the years. The team had won only two of seven games it had played there, and had lost their last three in a row by a combined score of 91-6.

OSU went to the West Coast without one of their top offensive weapons – No. 1 tailback Beanie Wells was sidelined with a foot injury. That put the pressure on the coaching staff to devise a game plan spotlighting fifth-year senior quarterback Todd Boeckman, who was beginning to hear footsteps from his backup, talented freshman Terrelle Pryor.

This year, Ohio State travels to Miami, Fla., and plays in a state where the team has played nine times before but won only twice. The Buckeyes head to the Sunshine State with No. 1 tailback Boom Herron sidelined for the third game of his five-game suspension, and the team will be led into battle by fifth-year senior quarterback Joe Bauserman. Behind Bauserman on the depth chart is talented freshman Braxton Miller.

We know what happened in 2008. Ohio State took an early 3-0 lead and then got crushed, 35-3, by a USC team that featured such future NFL stars as quarterback Mark Sanchez and linebackers Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing. Boeckman had a particularly ugly performance, throwing for only 84 yards and pitching two interceptions. One of those was a 48-yard pick six by USC linebacker Rey Maualuga, who unceremoniously steamrolled Boeckman on his way to the end zone.

By the time the team played Sun Belt weakling Troy the following week, Boeckman had been benched and Pryor was the new starting quarterback for a season that wound up with a 10-3 record and 24-21 loss to a Colt McCoy-led Texas team in the Fiesta Bowl.

The point of this walk back through time? Only because it appears history has already repeated itself this year and if Ohio State wants to avoid another nationally-televised failure, perhaps the coaching staff will look at the playbook utilized at USC three years ago and do the direct opposite.

Not that the 2011 Miami team is the equivalent of the 2008 USC squad. Far from it. The Hurricanes have had more than their share of problems this year including a particularly nasty episode with the NCAA that is only now in the early stages of investigation. Additionally, they are a mistake-prone team seemingly more interested in playing off their bygone national championship era than rising to the level of their own talent.

Be that as it may, Miami is playing at home and playing for pride. Because of the offseason problems that cost the Buckeyes their head coach and starting quarterback not to mention most of their national prestige, the Hurricanes believe they have a wounded opponent coming to town and Ohio State’s performance last week against Toledo did nothing to dispel that notion.

To help with their self-confidence, the Buckeyes can point to last year’s 36-24 victory in Columbus – a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score would indicate – but many of those who came up with big plays last year against the Hurricanes are gone. Pryor threw for 233 yards and ran for 113 more while kicker Devin Barclay tied a school record with five field goals. Also, cornerback Chimdi Chekwa had two interceptions and defensive end Cameron Heyward took a pick back 80 yards to set up one of the team’s touchdowns.

Yet as well as the Buckeyes played last year, they could have played much better. The offense got inside the Miami 25-yard line on 10 occasions and came away with only three touchdowns, while special teams allowed the Hurricanes to return a kickoff and a punt for scores – the only time that has happened to Ohio State in its history. Both return men – Lamar Smith and Travis Benjamin – will be on the field for Miami tomorrow night.

To be brutally honest, Ohio State cannot afford the mistakes it made last year against the Hurricanes if it expects to come home with a victory. Last week’s performance made that abundantly clear.

This is a team that is desperately trying to keep its head above water until Herron, receiver DeVier Posey and offensive tackle Mike Adams return in week six. This is a team that remains undecided at the quarterback position. This is a team that is shaky – at best – in the kicking game. And this is a team that continues to search for its own identity.

Most of all, this is a team at a crossroads with tomorrow night’s game serving as a signpost to indicate if the Buckeyes truly are ready for primetime.

OSU-MIAMI TIDBITS

** Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell is only the 12th Ohio State head coach in history to win his first two games. A victory over Miami tomorrow night would make him only the ninth OSU head coach to win his first three. The most recent to accomplish that feat was Earle Bruce, who won his first 11 in 1979.

** Bruce was also the most recent OSU head coach to win his first road game with the Buckeyes. That was a 21-17 victory at Minnesota in ’79. Since then, John Cooper lost his road debut, a 42-10 blowout loss at Pittsburgh, and Jim Tressel dropped a 13-6 decision at UCLA in 2001, a game postponed one week after the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

** Counting Fickell’s victory over Akron in this year’s season opener, Ohio State head coaches are 21-1-1 in their debut games with the Buckeyes. The record is not nearly as good in their first road test – only 7-13-2.

** Ohio State enjoys a 3-1 edge in the all-time series with Miami. The Buckeyes took a 10-0 win in Ohio Stadium in 1977, a 31-24 double overtime victory in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl that served as the BCS National Championship Game, and a 36-24 win in the Horseshoe last season. The Hurricanes’ lone win in the series was a 23-12 decision in the 1999 Kickoff Classic played at old Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands.

** The Buckeyes are 15-7 all-time against teams that are current members of the Atlantic Coast Conference. In addition to being 3-1 against the Hurricanes, OSU is 3-0 vs. Boston College, 2-0 vs. North Carolina State, 1-0 vs. Virginia, 3-1 against Duke and North Carolina, 0-1 vs. Clemson and 0-3 against Florida State. OSU has never played Georgia Tech, Maryland, Wake Forest or Virginia Tech.

** The Hurricanes have a 31-22 record against teams currently in the Big Ten. In addition to being 1-3 against Ohio State, Miami is 4-0 vs. Iowa and Michigan State, 5-1 against Purdue, 5-5 vs. Nebraska, 2-2 against Northwestern and Wisconsin, 1-1 vs. Indiana and Michigan, and 6-7 against Penn State. The Hurricanes have never played Illinois or Minnesota.

** This game marks the first regular-season game Ohio State has played in the state of Florida. The Buckeyes have played nine previous times in the Sunshine State – all bowl games – and have posted a 2-7 record. All nine of those games have been bowl contests with the only wins a 27-10 victory over Colorado in the 1977 Orange Bowl and a 10-7 decision against BYU in the 1985 Citrus Bowl.

** When Miami return man Lamar Miller scored on an 88-yard kickoff return last year against the Buckeyes, he became the first Hurricane to return a kickoff for a touchdown since Devin Hester ran one back 100 yards at North Carolina State in 2004.

** When Miami junior Travis Benjamin took a punt back 79 yards late in the second quarter against Ohio State last year, it marked the first time the Buckeyes had surrendered a touchdown on a punt return since Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson ran one back 87 yards in 1997. Michigan won that game by a 20-14 final.

** It might surprise you to know the Ohio State offensive line has not surrendered a sack in three straight games and 90 consecutive pass attempts. That is the third longest such streak in Division I-A behind UAB (119) and Oklahoma (112).

** The Hurricanes will honor former All-America defensive tackle Russell Maryland (1986-90) at halftime during tomorrow night’s game. Maryland is being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame this year following a career that included national championships in 1987 and ’89 and an Outland Trophy win in 1990.

** Sun Life Stadium is the seventh different name under which the 75,540-seat facility that is home to the Hurricanes has been known. The facility opened in 1987 as Joe Robbie Stadium and bore that name for the first decade of its existence. Since then, the stadium has also been known as Pro Player Park (1996), Pro Player Stadium (1996-2005), Dolphins Stadium (2005-06), Dolphin Stadium (2006-09) and Land Shark Stadium (2009-10).

** The game will be televised by ESPN with veteran play-by-play man Brad Nessler joined by former Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge with color analysis. Holly Rowe will file sideline reports. Kickoff is set for shortly after 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

** Next week, Ohio State returns home to take on Colorado. The game is set for a kickoff shortly after 3:30 p.m. Eastern and will be telecast by ABC/ESPN2 using the reverse mirror. (In case you have forgotten how the reverse mirror works, the game should be televised by your local ABC affiliate. If the game is not on that channel, look for it on ESPN2.)

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Sept. 14, 1991, San Diego State running back Marshall Faulk set an NCAA single-game record for freshmen by rushing for seven touchdowns during his team’s 55-34 win over Pacific.

** Also on Sept. 14, 1991, Texas A&M freshman tailback Greg Hill ran for 212 yards and two touchdowns as the Aggies rolled to a 45-7 victory over LSU in College Station. Hill’s yardage total marked the best debut performance by a freshman in college football history.

** On Sept. 15, 1973, Ohio State tailback Archie Griffin began his NCAA record streak of 31 consecutive games of rushing for 100 yards or more. Griffin had 129 yards as the Buckeyes rolled to a 56-7 victory over Minnesota in Ohio Stadium.

** Also on Sept. 15, 1973, Oklahoma gave head coach Barry Switzer a win in his first game with the Sooners, a 42-14 victory over Baylor in Waco. Switzer would go to post a 157-29-4 record with three national championships and 12 Big Eight titles in 16 seasons with OU.

** On Sept. 17, 1966, Joe Paterno made his debut as head coach at Penn State and led the Nittany Lions to a 15-7 victory over Maryland in Happy Valley. The Terrapins, coached by Lou Saban, made a last-ditch effort to ruin Paterno’s debut but backup quarterback Phil Petry threw incomplete on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter. That victory was JoePa’s first of a Division I-A record 402 and counting.

** On Sept. 17, 1988, No. 10 Florida State got a pair of outstanding special teams plays to score a 24-21 upset at third-ranked Clemson. FSU’s Deion Sanders returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, and then cornerback LeRoy Butler took a fake punt 76 yards to set up Richie Andrews’ game-winning 19-yard field goal with 32 seconds remaining.

** On Sept. 18, 1965, UTEP quarterback Billy Stevens established a new NCAA record for most total yards gained in a debut game with 483 yards in a 61-15 rout of North Texas. In that game, Chuck Hughes of UTEP also set an NCAA record when he caught 10 passes for 349 yards. His 34.9 yards-per-catch average is the best single-game average in NCAA history for players with at least 10 catches.

** On Sept. 19, 1952, Duke took a 20-7 win over South Carolina in the inaugural game of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

** On Sept. 20, 1986, unranked Miami (Ohio) stunned eighth-ranked LSU, 21-12, in Baton Rouge. The Tigers committed seven turnovers in the game and had a punt blocked as Miami pushed its all-time record against SEC teams to an impressive 8-0-1.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** With the obvious exception of its fan base, there were likely very few tears shed when Notre Dame lost a last-second decision to Michigan on Saturday night. Fighting Irish fans continue to combine a unique blend of arrogance and suspended reality, believing their favorite team remains relevant in the national championship picture. (The Irish haven’t finished a season as a consensus top-10 team since 1993.) Still, you might have felt just a sliver of sympathy for UND after its latest collapse against Michigan. The Wolverines have beaten Notre Dame the last three years, scoring the winning points with 0:11, 0:27 and 0:02 showing on the clock.

** A crowd of 114,804 jammed into the Big House to watch Michigan’s come-from-behind (twice) victory over the Irish. That broke the Michigan Stadium record of 113,090, set during the 2010 season opener against Connecticut, and marked the largest crowd ever to watch a football game – college or pro.

** Four Big Ten quarterbacks passed the 100-yard mark passing and rushing last weekend. They were led by Denard Robinson of Michigan, who threw for 338 and added 108 more on the ground to account for 446 of the Wolverines’ 452 yards against Notre Dame. Also breaking the century mark through the air and on the ground were Taylor Martinez of Nebraska (219 passing, 166 rushing), MarQueis Gray of Minnesota (211-110) and Kain Colter of Northwestern (109-104).

** With his performance against the Irish, Robinson jumped from sixth to third on the Big Ten list for career rushing yards by a quarterback. Robinson now has 2,207 yards and leapfrogged over Rick Leach of Michigan (2,176, 1975-78), Terrelle Pryor of Ohio State (2,164, 2008-10) and Rickey Foggie of Minnesota (2,150, 1984-87). Robinson now trails only Antwaan Randle El of Indiana (3,895, 1998-2001) and Juice Williams of Illinois (2,557, 2006-09).

** Indiana has certainly had its problems in recent years with three straight losing seasons. But the Hoosiers, who are currently 0-2, haven’t lost two games to open a season since 2003 when they finished 2-10 under head coach Gerry DiNardo.

** Minnesota is also 0-2 to start the season for the first time since the 1992 team lost its first three under first-year head coach Jim Wacker.

** Illinois is 2-0 for the first time since 2005 – Ron Zook’s first season – a mini-winning streak that was followed by nine consecutive losses. Things might be different this time around, though. During last weekend’s 56-3 romp over South Dakota State, the Fighting Illini gave up only 96 yards of total offense. That marked the first time since 1998 that Illinois had held an opponent under 100 total yards.

** After his first six seasons at Virginia Tech, head coach Frank Beamer had a record of 24-40-2. Since then, Beamer is 176-55 (a .762 winning percentage) and secured his 200th victory with the Hokies on Saturday when his team rolled to a 66-13 rout of Division I-AA Appalachian State.

** Welcome back, Tennessee. The Volunteers were 18-20 over the past three seasons, but they are currently 2-0 following last weekend’s 45-23 romp over Cincinnati. Head coach Derek Dooley’s team is led by a bunch of talented sophomores, including quarterback Tyler Bray, who completed 34 of 41 passes for 405 yards and four touchdowns against the Bearcats. UT gets a better gauge on its rebuilding project this week when the Vols travel to Gainesville to take on Florida, a team they haven’t beaten since 2004. In the six games since, Tennessee has been outscored by a 180-83 margin.

** Remember Eastern Michigan, the team Ohio State hung 73 on last season? Well, the Eagles are back in the air with a 2-0 start for the first time in 22 years. Of course, the two victories have come against a pair of Division I-AA opponents, but third-year head coach Ron English will take any win he can get. EMU, which plays at Michigan this week, hasn’t had a winning season since going 6-5 in 1995, and the Eagles haven’t been to a bowl game since the 1987 California Bowl where they took a 30-27 win over San Jose State.

** Any football aficionado can tell you it’s a pretty sure bet that any team losing the turnover battle by a 5-0 margin will likely lose. Of course, gamblers can tell you there’s no such thing as a sure bet. North Carolina turned the ball over five times Saturday to none for Rutgers, but the Tar Heels still managed a 24-22 win.

** Oberlin remains the last Ohio school to beat Ohio State, a 7-6 victory over the Buckeyes in 1921 – the year before Ohio Stadium was completed. The Yeomen don’t play Ohio State any more, but they still have an intercollegiate football program and celebrated a 42-0 victory last weekend over Kenyon. It marked the first shutout victory for Oberlin in 29 years.

** Congratulations to Alan Moore, who kicked an extra point Saturday for NAIA Faulkner (Ala.) during the Eagles’ 41-19 win over Ave Maria (Fla.). What makes Moore’s PAT so noteworthy? He is a 61-year-old Vietnam War veteran and grandfather of five who is now the oldest person ever to play in a college football game.

FEARLESS FORECAST

Last week, we were 8-2 straight up to move to 19-3 on the young season. We were almost as good picking against the spread, going 7-2-1 to get above the breakeven mark at 11-8-1 for the season. Now all we have to do is keep our heads above water.

Here are the games we’re watching this week:

TONIGHT’S GAME

No. 4 Boise State at Toledo: Based upon the Rockets’ performance last week at Ohio State, you might be tempted to take them in an upset. You might but we’re not. The Broncos invade the Glass Bowl after a 35-21 season-opening win over Georgia and a week off. No offense to Joe Bauserman, but Toledo is going to face a much more polished quarterback this week in Kellen Moore, who would probably be the odds-on Heisman Trophy favorite if not for a guy named Andrew Luck. Look for Moore and his teammates to take care of business … Boise State 45, Toledo 14. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 1 Oklahoma at No. 5 Florida State: The Sooners rolled – and we mean rolled in every sense of the word – to a 47-17 win over the Seminoles in Norman last year and most observers think it will be pretty much the same tomorrow night in Tallahassee. Much has been made of the rebuilt FSU defense, which ranks third in the nation in total defense and fourth in scoring. But those stats have been accumulated against the likes of Louisiana-Monroe and Division I-AA Charleston Southern. There is no doubt Jimbo Fisher has the Seminoles pointed in the right direction. Unfortunately, they are still a ways away from elite status and this game represents just a little bit more than Fisher’s team can chew right now … Oklahoma 31, Florida State 14. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

North Texas at No. 2 Alabama: For all of those opponents who thought the Crimson Tide offense would sputter this year after the departure of graduated QB Greg McElroy, here’s some bad news – they still have Trent Richardson at tailback. Richardson and new running mate Eddie Lacy have pummeled opponents so far this year, combining for nearly 300 yards in only two games. Next up is the Mean Green, who enter Bryant-Denny Stadium with a defense that has given up an average of 545.5 yards in two games so far this year. We smell a rout … Alabama 49, North Texas 7. (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan)

No. 6 Stanford at Arizona: The Wildcats escape the frying pan only to jump into the fire. They took their lumps during a 37-14 loss at Oklahoma State last weekend and now draw the high-flying Cardinal in their Pac-12 opener. QB Andrew Luck gets all the pub, but Stanford has a pretty good running game, too. Evidence is last week’s 44-14 rout of Duke when the Cardinal piled up 205 yards on the ground to only 30 for the Blue Devils. When you realize Zona had only 41 yards last week against Okie State, you get a feel for where this one’s headed … Stanford 34, Arizona 10. (10:45 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 7 Wisconsin vs. Northern Illinois: Things might be a little tighter for Bucky this week than you might imagine. First, they are on the road for the first time (the game is at Soldier Field in Chicago) and the Badgers aren’t exactly road warriors – seven of their last eight losses have come away from Camp Randall. Secondly, the Huskies are coached by former UW defensive coordinator Dave Doeren, who might know a thing or two about stopping the Wisconsin ground game. Unfortunately, Doeren will also have to stop QB Russell Wilson, who has been superlative in his first two games, completing nearly 80 percent of his passes for 444 yards and five TDs … Wisconsin 37, Northern Illinois 10. (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN)

Idaho at No. 9 Texas A&M: It seems rather amusing to hear the pundits opine that A&M wanting to bolt the Big 12 for the SEC serves as a distraction for this game. Maybe if the Aggies were playing someone a little stronger than the Vandals, who gave up 478 yards in their season-opening loss to Bowling Green. They are liable to give up even more this week since A&M trots out an offensive attack led by efficient QB Ryan Tannehill and RB Cyrus Gray, who has run for 100 yards or more in eight straight games … Texas A&M 47, Idaho 10. (7 p.m. ET, FSN)

Missouri State at No. 12 Oregon: We pretty much know the Ducks’ routine by now – run up the score on lesser opponents and then struggle with the big boys. No one would confuse the Bears with the big boys, especially after being preseason favorites to finish last in the Missouri Valley Conference. They are basically going to Eugene to pick up their checks and try to keep Oregon from scoring in triple figures … Oregon 62, Missouri State 7. (3:30 p.m. ET, CSN)

No. 15 Michigan State at Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish are beginning to get a complex about playing teams from Michigan. The Wolverines have literally cut out their hearts on last-second plays the last three years, and Sparty has beat UND four of the last six times they have met. Last year featured another fantastic finish with Michigan State scoring a touchdown off a fake field goal for a 34-31 overtime victory. This year, it could be just as close provided the fact Notre Dame’s offense doesn’t keep shooting itself in the foot with turnover after turnover. The Irish rank No. 13 nationally in total offense but dead last among 120 Division I-A teams in turnover margin. That stat alone tilts the pick … Michigan State 31, Notre Dame 27. (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

No. 8 Oklahoma State at Tulsa: If they entertain the slightest notion of an upset, the Golden Hurricane will have to figure out a way to slow down Okie State WR Justin Blackmon. The junior already has 20 catches for 272 yards and two TDs this year and is working on an NCAA record streak of 14 straight games with at least 100 yards receiving. Blackmon caught three TDs last year against Tulsa during a 62-38 romp in Stillwater, and if you think the Hurricane have gotten any better at pass defense, know this: they gave up 417 to Oklahoma in their season opener … Oklahoma State 48, Tulsa 21.  (10 p.m. ET, FSN)

No. 17 Ohio State at Miami (Fla.): To say we’re conflicted about this game would be an understatement. Does Ohio State have the ability to win this game? Absolutely. Will the Buckeyes win? In light of what happened last week against Toledo, that’s a good question. We keep going back to last year’s game and all of the production OSU has lost since then. We’re also bothered by a lack of execution on special teams this year, something that kept the Hurricanes in last year’s game. It all makes for a most uneasy feeling … Miami 26, Ohio State 21. (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Boise State (-20) at Toledo; Oklahoma (-3) at Florida State; North Texas (+46) at Alabama; Stanford (-9½) at Arizona; Wisconsin (-16½) at Northern Illinois; Idaho at Texas A&M (-35½); Missouri State at Oregon (-47½); Michigan State (+5½) at Notre Dame; Oklahoma State (-13) at Tulsa; Ohio State at Miami-FL (-3).

Enjoy the games and we’ll see you next week.

Dawn Of New Season Remains Saving Grace

Richard III had his winter of discontent and Ohio State certainly had a similar summer. Who knew the business of building a perennial college football powerhouse would devolve into defending yourself about the way you built it?

Thankfully, most of that is behind us now. And as we wait for some sort of closure regarding the NCAA mess – something that could take up to another month or so – Ohio Stadium stands in readiness for another football season.

A noontime kickoff under a bright September sky by the banks of the Olentangy River means the beginning of a new season made far sweeter by the bitterness of the past eight months. But no matter how much the NCAA, the media and some of its own coaches and players try to ruin it, college football will always remain one of the preeminent fall activities throughout the country.

Of course, we’re a little prejudiced in Columbus because nothing could be better than the first glimpse of TBDBITL coming down the ramp, the smell of hamburgers and hotdogs being grilled at tailgate parties, the roar that goes up when the team bolts from the tunnel and the first strains of “Hang On Sloopy.”

I won’t lie to you. Last May, when Jim Tressel was forced to resign, I felt like I had been kicked the gut to the point where I seriously questioned whether I wanted to cover Ohio State football any more. I wasn’t particular close to Tressel – no one in the media was – and there were times when the guy seemed moody or prickly just because he could get away with it. Still, I kind of liked the way he went about his business, micromanaging everything from offensive play-calling to which players graced the front of the gameday program.

Tressel had his share of detractors, though. Every public figure does. But no matter if you loved the guy or hated him, you had to respect the bottom line. During his decade-long tenure with the Buckeyes, he accomplished things no Ohio State head coach ever has. At the top of that list was nine victories over Michigan in 10 tries.

For about a six-week period, I was in an angry funk. Yes, Tressel lied to his superiors and that sets the absolute wrong tone for someone who is supposed to be above that sort of thing. But I just couldn’t get my head around the fact that his punishment did not fit his crime. Slowly but surely, however, I cooled off and so did the weather. The closer we got to actually playing football again, the better I seemed to feel. I imagine it’s like that for a lot of you.

The Ohio State football program has weathered many storms and it will weather many more. I’m sure there were those in 1928 who believed the Buckeyes would never be the same after the resignation of longtime coach John W. Wilce. The sentiment was likely the same in 1944 when Paul Brown went off to World War II. And I know how people felt following Woody Hayes’ all-too-public meltdown on national television in 1978.

I don’t have the slightest idea what kind of a head coach Luke Fickell will make. I have known Luke for a long time – since he was a high school wrestler at Columbus DeSales – but he’s never been the lead dog. He wasn’t as a four-year starter on the Ohio State defensive line and he never has been during a coaching career that began as a grad assistant on John Cooper’s OSU staff in 1999.

It is doubtful Luke knows the avalanche headed his way. He can prepare all he wants, but until you are in the meat grinder that is being the head football coach at Ohio State, you have no idea how white-hot that spotlight is going to be. Some thrive on it, some despise it and some get devoured by it. I don’t need to name names. You all know who I’m talking about in each instance.

Regardless of how Fickell handles the intrinsic pressure that comes with the unreasonable expectation of winning every game by at least 40 points, though, his bottom line will remain constant. For every head coach at Ohio State, the success formula is really quite simple: Win and you can stay. Lose and you can pack your bags.

Fortunately for Fickell, the cupboard left to him by Tressel is far from bare. There are a lot of new faces in the starting lineup – even more after the announcement of yesterday’s suspensions – but the Buckeyes have recruited so well over the past several years and talent always has a way of rising to the top. Additionally, the Buckeyes can take advantage of a fairly soft schedule that features no more than three or four bona fide landmines.

How will the team do under its new head coach? I think the answer is similar to how the program will survive in the wake of a particularly mean-spirited NCAA investigation that sullied its reputation. Very well, thank you.

OSU-AKRON TIDBITS

** Ohio State kicks off its 122nd season of intercollegiate football tomorrow against Akron. The Buckeyes have won 32 consecutive home openers, not tasting defeat since a 19-0 loss to Penn State in the 1978 season opener.

** OSU head coach Luke Fickell makes his debut this weekend. The last time the Buckeyes went into a season with a man who had no previous head coaching experience was 1946. Assistant coach Paul Bixler was elevated to the head coaching position and his first game resulted in a 13-13 tie with Missouri. That also marked the last time a first-year Ohio State head coach failed to win his opening game with the Buckeyes.

** The Zips are led by second-year coach Rob Ianello, whose team struggled to a 1-11 record last season. Ianello is not unfamiliar with playing against Ohio State, however. He was on staff at Wisconsin from 1990-93 and again in 2003 and ’04 during which time the Badgers posted a 3-2-1 record against the Buckeyes. Ianello was also on Charlie Weis’ staff at Notre Dame in 2005 when Ohio State rolled to a 34-20 victory in the Fiesta Bowl.

** Fickell may be in his first season as a head coach, but his staff has a combined 184 years of experience as college assistants or staff members.

** Fickell also knows a little bit about Akron. He got his first full-time coaching job there, serving as defensive line coach on Lee Owens’ staff in 2000 and 2001. OSU recruiting coordinator John Peterson also spent time in Akron. He coached the Zips’ offensive line for Owens from 1995-98.

** Former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel also began his coaching career at Akron. Tressel was a graduate assistant on Jim Dennison’s staff in 1975 and was a full-time assistant for Dennison from 1976-78.

** Akron is embarking upon its 111th season of intercollegiate football. The Zips haven’t had a winning season since going 7-5 in 2005, and they haven’t won a season opener since 2007 when they took a 22-14 victory over Army at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

** All-time, the Buckeyes are 105-12-4 in season openers. The team’s last opening-game loss came in the 1999 Kickoff Classic, a 23-12 loss to Miami (Fla.) in East Rutherford, N.J.

** In season home openers, OSU is 109-8-4 all-time.

** Ohio State is working on a streak of 56 consecutive regular-season victories over unranked nonconference opposition. The last time the Buckeyes lost in the regular season to an unranked foe was a 42-10 loss at Pittsburgh in 1988.

** OSU also has a 57-game home winning streak against unranked nonconference opponents. You have to go all the way back to a 34-17 loss to Florida State in 1982 to find the last unranked nonconference team to beat the Buckeyes in the Horseshoe.

** The Buckeyes are 28-1 all-time against current members of the Mid-American Conference. The only blemish on that record against the MAC remains a 12-6 loss to Akron in a game played Sept. 15, 1894, at the Ohio State Fair.

** The Zips are 1-6 lifetime against Ohio State with the only victory coming with that win in 1894. The Buckeyes won the last meeting between the two schools, a 20-2 snoozefest in 2007.

** Akron is 1-22 all-time against current members of the Big Ten. In addition to their 1-6 mark against OSU, the Zips are 0-4 vs. Penn State, 0-3 against Indiana, 0-2 vs. Michigan State, Purdue and Wisconsin, and 0-1 against Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. Akron has never played Michigan, Minnesota or Northwestern.

** Akron is facing a ranked team for the first time since 2009 when it opened the season with a 31-7 loss at Penn State. The Zips are 1-21 all-time vs. ranked opponents with the lone win a 34-20 defeat of No. 25 Marshall in November 2002.

** Since 2005, Ohio State has allowed only 10 opponents to rush for 100 yards or more. That is the third-best figure in Division I-AA, trailing only Boston College (eight) and Alabama (nine).

** Ohio State is 399-107-20 in Ohio Stadium since the facility opened in 1922. That is a .778 winning percentage. All-time in Columbus, the team is 542-154-35, good for a winning percentage of .765.

** Over the past nine seasons, the Buckeyes have enjoyed a 60-5 record at home, good for a .923 winning percentage. Since 2002, that is tied with Oklahoma for the third-best home mark in Division I-A. Only Boise State (56-0, 1.000) and TCU (49-4, .925) have done better over that time frame.

** Although last season was technically vacated, OSU recorded 10 wins or more for a Big Ten-record sixth consecutive season.

** The Buckeyes are the only Division I-A team to have finished in the top 10 of the final Associated Press writers’ poll in each of the last six years.

** ESPN will have the telecast of the season opener with Syracuse alum Dave Pasch on the play-by-play, former Florida head coach Urban Meyer and former Ohio State All-America linebacker Chris Spielman handling color analysis and former Johns Hopkins All-America lacrosse player Quint Kessenich providing sideline reports. Kickoff is set for shortly after 12 noon Eastern.

** Next week, Ohio State stays home to host another MAC team in Toledo with former OSU defensive coordinator Tim Beckman in his third season as head coach. The game will be telecast by the Big Ten Network and will kickoff at 12 noon Eastern.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Aug. 31, 1996, No. 18 Kansas State took a 21-14 victory over Texas Tech in the inaugural Big 12 conference game. The Red Raiders nearly rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter, but K-State safety Mario Smith broke up a fourth-down pass deep in his own territory with 44 seconds remaining to secure the win.

** On Sept. 1, 2007, Appalachian State engineered one of the biggest upsets in college football history, going into Ann Arbor and pulling off a 34-32 shocker over No. 5 Michigan. The Wolverines trailed much of the game but managed to take a 32-31 lead with 4:36 to play before QB Armanti Edwards led the Mountaineers on a 69-yard drive for a 24-yard field goal with 26 seconds left. U-M responded and got all the way to Appalachian State’s 20-yard line, but the Wolverines’ field-goal attempt was blocked with six seconds remaining the Mountaineers secured Division I-AA’s first-ever victory over a top-five Division I-A opponent.

** On Sept. 1, 1984, BYU began its march to the national championship with a 20-14 upset at No. 3 Pittsburgh. Cougars QB Robbie Bosco threw for 325 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown to Adam Haysbert with 1:37 remaining in the game. The victory vaulted BYU from unranked to No. 13 in the national polls. The contest was also the first regular-season college football game ever televised live by ESPN.

** On Sept. 2, 1989, Southern Mississippi quarterback Brett Favre threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns, including a 2-yard score with 23 seconds remaining, to lead the Golden Eagles to a 30-26 win over No. 6 Florida State.

** On Sept. 3, 1983, seventh-ranked Florida State barely escaped a season-opening loss, scoring a late touchdown to squeeze past unranked East Carolina, 47-46, in Tallahassee.

** On Sept. 4, 1993, Penn State scored its first Big Ten victory with a 38-20 win over Minnesota.

** On Sept. 5, 1981, Lamar University engineered one of the biggest upsets in college football history, beating defending Southwest Conference champion Baylor, 18-17, in Waco. Lamar kicker Mike Marlow booted a 42-yard field goal with three seconds left to account for the winning points. It was the first time in history that a Division I-AA school had beaten a I-A school.

** On Sept. 6, 1986, third-ranked Miami (Fla.) overcame a 15-9 second-half deficit for a 23-15 over Florida, ending the Gators’ 21-game home winning streak.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** Congratulations to our old pals up north who are out to prove they are unafraid of lightning striking them twice. Michigan has scheduled a rematch with Appalachian State in 2014.

** Proving that a decent idea can be ground into the dust, Nike will provide its so-called Pro Combat uniforms to selected schools again this year. Boise State, Georgia and Oregon will unveil theirs tomorrow while other teams will wear them throughout the season. Ohio State is scheduled to suit up in its Pro Combats when the Buckeyes host Wisconsin on Oct. 29.

** On the off chance that you give a rip, ESPN released this week preseason predictions by its cadre of college football analysts. Eighteen analysts picked conference champions as well as national title participants. In the Big Ten, Wisconsin was selected by nine of the analysts while Ohio State got five votes and Nebraska garnered four. Those voting for the Badgers were Ed Cunningham, Rod Gilmore, Brian Griese, Desmond Howard, Brock Huard, Danny Kanell, Matt Millen, David Pollock and Chris Spielman. OSU received the nod from Mike Bellotti, Todd Blackledge, Bob Davie, Kirk Herbstreit and Urban Meyer, while Nebraska got votes from Lee Corso, Dan Hawkins, Craig James and Jesse Palmer.

** Eleven of the analysts picked Alabama to make the BCS National Championship Game while Oklahoma also received 11 votes to make the title game. However, only five analysts – Bellotti, James, Meyer, Miller and Pollock – picked the Crimson Tide to play the Sooners for the championship. To see all of the picks, click here.

** How about a little Heisman Trophy trivia? Name the Division I-A school with the most all-time wins that has never had a Heisman winner. The answer comes later.

** Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson enters the 2011 season with 2,053 career rushing yards, seventh on the all-time Big Ten list among quarterbacks. He needs only 98 more to move into the top five, but Robinson has a ways to go to catch Antwaan Randle El, who rushed for 3,895 yards while quarterbacking Indiana from 1998 to 2001.

** Minnesota return man Troy Stoudermire needs only 97 yards in kickoff returns to become the all-time Big Ten leader in that department. Stoudermire enters 2011 with 2,929 kickoff return yards, second only to David Gilreath of Wisconsin, who became the conference leader just last season. Gilreath finished his career with 3,025 yards on kickoff returns.

** Penn State kicker Collin Wagner takes a streak of 85 consecutive PATs into this season. That ranks as the sixth longest streak in Big Ten history behind J.D. Carlson of Michigan (128, 1989-91), Brett Conway of Penn State (119, 1994-96), Chris Summers of Purdue (111, 2006-08), Pete Stoyanovich of Indiana (107, 1986-88) and Tim Williams of Ohio State (86, 1991-93).

** Four Big Ten kickers were named to the preseason watch list for the Groza Award, given annually to the top placekicker in college football. Wagner wasn’t one of the four. They were Derek Dimke of Illinois, Mitch Ewald of Indiana, Dan Conroy of Michigan State and Philip Welch of Wisconsin. Dimke led the Big Ten in field goals last season with 24 and Wagner tied for second with 20.

** According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Oklahoma’s unemployment rate of 5.5 ranked as the fifth-lowest in the country for July. Perhaps that is one reason why Oklahoma State has surpassed 34,000 season tickets sold this year, breaking the school record set in 2009.

** The Fiesta Bowl has been moved from Jan. 5 (a Thursday) to Jan. 2 (a Monday). No, I don’t know why.

** In other bowl news, the Humanitarian Bowl – the one played outside in Boise, Idaho, in mid-December – has changed its name. Henceforth, the game will now be known as the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

** Talk about planning ahead: Notre Dame and Navy recently announced they have agreed to continue playing one another in football through at least the 2026 season.

** Pity the poor punters in last Saturday’s Division III game between Saint Augustine’s College (Va.) and Virginia Union. The game was played the same afternoon Hurricane Irene rolled into the area and four punts during the contest traveled less than 10 yards. That included one that went for minus-9 and another than went for minus-1. There was also a fifth punt that blew out of the punter’s grasp before he could get the kick away. Saint Augustine also fumbled six times during the 12-0 loss.

** Here is the answer to our Heisman trivia. Going into the 2011 season, the top five winningest programs that have never produced a Heisman Trophy winner are Tennessee (789), West Virginia (691), Georgia Tech (679), Virginia Tech (678) and Arkansas (669).

FEARLESS FORECAST

Last season is going to be a pretty tough act to follow here at Forecast World Headquarters. The straight-up picks finished with a 118-24 record (that’s a .831 winning percentage) while we had a solid 81-55-6 mark against the spread.

In case you’re keeping score at home, that makes the career numbers 1,521-450 straight up (77.2 percent) and still fairly well above water against the spread at 765-685-25 (good enough for 52.7 percent).

Yeah, we’re pretty solid in the black with these picks but remember it’s all in fun and there are many more picks based on gut feelings than any inside information. Nevertheless, we enjoy making the picks, so off we go for another year.

Here are the games we’re watching this week:

TONIGHT’S GAMES

Youngstown State at No. 17 Michigan State: With Nebraska, Wisconsin and Ohio State taking up most of the summertime oxygen in the Big Ten, Sparty has been a tad overlooked. MSU returns a boatload of talent on offense, including veteran QB Kirk Cousins (2,825 yards, 20 TDs a year ago) and ultra-productive tailback Edwin Baker (1,201 yards, 13 TDs) … Michigan State 42, Youngstown State 7. (7:30 p.m. ET, BTN)

No. 14 TCU at Baylor: The Horned Frogs have several new starters, including sophomore Casey Pachall taking over at quarterback for the graduated Andy Dalton, as they begin their final season in the Mighty Mountain West. Their goal remains the same, however – upset the college football apple cart by crashing the BCS party. Before they can think about that, they need to contend with the Bears and their quarterback Robert Griffin III, who is a preseason Heisman candidate after throwing for a school-record 3,501 yards last year. Unfortunately, Baylor isn’t quite as strong on defense and that will make the difference … TCU 31, Baylor 21. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Utah State at No. 23 Auburn: Hopefully, the Tigers squeezed every ounce of enjoyment they could out of last year’s national championship run. This year, it’s back to reality without Heisman winner Cam Newton and the specter of an NCAA investigation looming over the program. Not that those problems should have much of an impact this week with the Aggies coming to town. Utah State is one of the weakest programs in I-A with 13 consecutive losing seasons and a 1-54 all-time record against ranked opponents … Auburn 38, Utah State 6. (12 noon ET, ESPN2)

Chattanooga at No. 10 Nebraska: The Cornhuskers begin life as Big Ten members by hosting the Mocs, who are coming off their second consecutive 6-5 season. Chattanooga typically schedules a big-name Division I-A school each year and those games turn out about the way you would expect. Since 2008, the Mocs have played Oklahoma, Alabama and Auburn have lost all three by a combined score of 164-26. Don’t expect anything different this time around … Nebraska 42, Chattanooga 0. (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN)

Minnesota at No. 25 USC: Since new Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill says he likes challenges, he should be very happy. Not only is he charged with a huge rebuilding project, he gets to start it at a venue that has been very unkind to Big Ten teams. Since 1960, the conference is a dismal 2-17-1 when traveling to the Coliseum to play the Trojans. The last time the Golden Gophers were there was 1979 and they came home with a 48-14 loss. Quite frankly, that final score seems about right … USC 48, Minnesota 14. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

Western Michigan at Michigan: The Brady Hoke Era gets under way in Ann Arbor and if it is to go any better than the Rich Rodriguez Era, the Wolverines will have to figure out a way to play some defense. Last year, U-M ranked dead last in the Big Ten in scoring and total defense – meaning they gave up more points and more yardage than any other team in the conference. This should be a pretty good barometer on what Hoke has done during the offseason to shore up the stop troops since the Broncos throw the ball around pretty well with returning QB Alex Carder (3,334 yards, 30 TDs). This one might be closer than a lot of people think it will be … Michigan 37, Western Michigan 31. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

Tulsa at No. 1 Oklahoma: Every year it seems the Sooners are early favorites to make a run at the national championship, and every year it seems they fall just short of that goal. This time, OU may be for real. QB Landry Jones (4,718 yards, 38 TDs) leads a potent offense and the Sooners are also pretty good on defense despite the absence of linebackers Travis Lewis (broken foot) and Austin Box, who tragically died over the summer due to an accidental overdose of prescription painkillers. The Golden Hurricane enters the game on a seven-game winning streak, and they have posted three 10-win seasons in the past four years. Still, it’s difficult to see how they can break through, especially with Oklahoma protecting its No. 1 status as well as a 36-game home win streak … Oklahoma 45, Tulsa 10. (8 p.m. ET, FX)

No. 5 Boise State vs. No. 19 Georgia: Mark Richt is on the hot seat in Athens, and that chair is about to get even hotter. The Bulldogs are coming off a 6-7 campaign, their first losing season since 1996, and their opening-night assignment in the Georgia Dome is figuring out how to slow down the ultra-talented Broncos. Leading the Boise attack is Heisman-worthy QB Kellen Moore (3,845 yards, 35 TDs), who has a gaudy 38-2 record as a starter. As good as the Broncos are on offense, they are extremely underrated on defense and that is where they will win this game … Boise State 20, Georgia 17. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 4 LSU: This is easily the most-hyped game of the first weekend since it is basically a national championship elimination bout. The winner solidifies his résumé while the loser can begin making plans for next year. The Ducks obviously have great team speed, led by Heisman candidate LaMichael James, who needs only 20 yards to become his school’s all-time leading rusher. Then, there are the Tigers with their messy quarterback situation that resulted in starter Jordan Jefferson being suspended. There are folks in the bayou, however, who believe their team will be better off with Jarrett Lee under center anyway. Add that to the fact LSU has the better defense and, after all, they are from the SEC, and you smell what we’re cooking here … LSU 26, Oregon 22. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Akron at No. 18 Ohio State: There is little use in rehashing the Buckeyes’ summer of discontent. Ohio State has played intercollegiate football for the past 121 years and there is every indication the program will continue for at least another 121, so who occupies the head coach’s office and who takes the snaps as quarterback is largely irrelevant in the overall scheme of things. When the pigskins begin to fly, OSU fans regain their singular focus. They simply want their team to win and look good doing so. That shouldn’t be much of a problem in the opener against the Zips, who were one of the worst teams in all of Division I-A last year. However, with the Buckeyes having so many new faces in so many new positions – not the least of which is Luke Fickell – we don’t foresee things getting too much out of hand … Ohio State 31, Akron 7. (12 noon ET, ESPN)

SUNDAY’S GAMES

Marshall at No. 24 West Virginia: If not for ESPN’s summertime obsession with Ohio State, the all-sports network might have been focusing on these two programs. The Mountaineers had a messy coaching change and were placed on a two-year probation by the NCAA while one of the Herd’s top receivers was recently charged in connection with a string of armed robberies. No wonder both of the programs are ready to get back to some football … West Virginia 41, Marshall 13. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

SMU at No. 8 Texas A&M: These former Southwest Conference foes get together for what could be the final time in the foreseeable future as the Aggies prepare to bolt for the SEC. While A&M has gotten most of the preseason hype, the Mustangs feature one of the best quarterbacks you’ve probably never heard of. Kyle Padron (3,828 yards, 31 TDs) flourished in head coach June Jones’ system – what quarterback doesn’t flourish with Jones? – and that always gives SMU a puncher’s chance. What Jones’ teams typically lack is a creditable defense and that will make the difference here … Texas A&M 37, SMU 20. (7:30 p.m. ET, FSN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Youngstown State at Michigan State (-34); TCU (-3½) at Baylor; Utah State at Auburn (-22); Chattanooga at Nebraska (-34½); Minnesota at USC (-23); Western Michigan (+14½) at Michigan; Tulsa at Oklahoma (-24½); Boise State (-2½) vs. Georgia in Atlanta; Oregon vs. LSU (-3½) in Dallas; Marshall at West Virginia (-23); SMU at Texas A&M (-14); and Akron (+34) at Ohio State.

Enjoy opening weekend, have a safe Labor Day holiday and we’ll see you next week.

Why Is Something So Easy So Hard For So Many?

It is always more than a little amusing when national college football pundits gather after each regular season to breathlessly pronounce that “This year the BCS got it right.”

Oh, really? Just because two undefeated teams from major conferences finished one-two in the final Bowl Championship Series standings doesn’t necessarily mean the BCS “got it right.” It simply means the two teams everyone wanted to see play one another in the national championship game will play one another in the national championship game.

In my humble opinion, this year more than any other in recent memory screams for a playoff at the Division I-A level. And I’m not talking about a Cinderella team like TCU – undefeated for the second season in a row – getting the shaft and not playing for the title. I’m talking about major conference teams such as Ohio State and Michigan State not even being in the national championship conversation.

The Buckeyes were once the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, yet after losing a game in mid-October they were literally never heard from again. Meanwhile, the Spartans were one of the feel-good stories of the entire college football season, overcoming their head coach’s heart attack to play an inspired brand of football and earn a share of their first Big Ten championship in 20 years.

Both Brutus and Sparty finished the season with 11-1 records, and at least Ohio State drew a big-money BCS bowl assignment. Michigan State gets the Capital One Bowl for its trouble and a date with defending national champion Alabama. The message to the Spartans and virtually every other Big Ten school not named Ohio State or Michigan? Win your conference’s automatic BCS bid because you literally have no chance at a BCS at-large berth.

Then there is Stanford. The Cardinal also finished 11-1 with their lone loss a 52-31 decision Oct. 2 at Oregon. Stanford won its last seven games in a row by an average margin of 22.0 points and rose all the way to No. 4 in the final BCS standings. But because of a new BCS rule, the Cardinal is not able to play in the Rose Bowl for what would likely be an entertaining matchup with Wisconsin. Stanford must truck itself across the country to face Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

TCU and Boise State have been behind the proverbial 8-ball all season, each of them knowing the tiniest of slip-ups would be costly. Boise owned the nation’s longest win streak before a 34-31 overtime loss Nov. 26 to Nevada, and the Broncos will face No. 19 Utah in the totally meaningless Las Vegas Bowl three days before Christmas.

Meanwhile, the Horned Frogs have won 26 of their last 27 games and will be able to match their tenacious defense against Wisconsin’s offensive juggernaut in Pasadena. Of course, no one gives TCU much of a chance – except the oddsmakers, who have installed the Frogs as early 2½-point favorites.

So while Oregon and Auburn get this year’s BCS goldmine, nearly everyone else gets the shaft. And the sad truth of the matter is that it doesn’t have to be that way. You can easily make a case for a month-long, 12-team playoff by simply seeding the teams according to the final BCS standings and giving the top four teams a first-round bye.

This year for example, the aforementioned format would give byes to Auburn, Oregon, TCU and Stanford with first-round matchups pitting No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 Missouri, No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 11 LSU, No. 7 Oklahoma vs. No. 10 Boise State, and No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 9 Michigan State. In that first round alone, you have three superlative games including OSU and LSU playing a rematch of the 2007 national title game, Oklahoma looking to avenge its Fiesta Bowl loss four years ago to Boise State, and a classic SEC-Big Ten battle between Arkansas and Michigan State.

For the second-round games, the lowest ranked winners would play the highest ranked of the top four teams. For argument’s sake, let’s say each of the higher ranked teams won their first-round games. That means you would have the following second-round matchups: No. 1 Auburn vs. No. 8 Arkansas and No. 4 Stanford vs. No. 5 Wisconsin in one bracket, and No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 7 Oklahoma and No. 3 TCU vs. No. 6 Ohio State in the other.

The winners of those games go to the BCS Final Four, which could be made up of the current BCS bowl games. Then the two winners play for the national championship – again in one of the current four BCS venues to be played on a rotating basis. Television cleans up with advertising revenue, colleges put a billion extra dollars into their coffers, and fans get a month filled with March Madness excitement culminating with one true champion decided on the field of play.

It is so stunningly simple to implement with the result being a win-win situation for all parties involved. Makes you wonder why something so easy seems so difficult to so many.

FAIR OR UNFAIR – YOU DECIDE

North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin accepted an agent-sponsored trip to Miami of which he posted photos on his Twitter account. Austin’s penalty: Suspended for the entire 2010 season.

Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus was reportedly at the same Miami party as Austin. Dareus’ penalty: Suspended for the first two games of the 2010 season.

Georgia receiver A.J. Green sold a game-worn jersey for $1,000 to a man with agent ties whom Green had met through Facebook. Green’s penalty: Suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season.

Tennessee men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl made telephone calls to prospective recruits during the NCAA’s non-contact period. Pearl’s penalty: Suspended for the first eight SEC games of the 2010-11 season.

USC freshman running back Dillon Baxter accepted a cross-campus golf cart ride from a fellow student who works part-time for a sports agency. Baxter’s penalty: Suspended for one game.

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton’s father admitted to shopping his son’s services to the highest bidder with some reports claiming as much as $180,000 was the asking price. NCAA rules clearly stipulate that no player or his representative can ask for or accept money during the recruiting process. Yet because Newton’s father claims his son had no knowledge of his actions, the NCAA has declared Newton eligible to play this season.

There is no doubt that Newton will be named the winner of the Heisman Trophy tomorrow although I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that some voters left him off their ballots.

Was it fair for those voters to anoint themselves judge and jury against Newton when the NCAA has ruled him eligible? Likewise, is it fair for Newton to continue to play under the cloud of an NCAA investigation that appears to be disingenuous at best?

Fair or unfair? You decide.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY

** On Dec. 4, 1976, Texas handed Arkansas a 29-12 loss in Austin in the final game for both coaching legends Darrell K. Royal of the Longhorns and Frank Broyles of the Razorbacks.

** On Dec. 6, 1987, American college football ventured to Australia for the first time. Wyoming scored a 24-21 victory over Texas-El Paso in a Western Athletic Conference contest staged in Melbourne. The game drew 22,000 fans to the 100,000-seat capacity Victoria Football League Park and Cricket Grounds.

** On Dec. 6, 2003, Kansas State captured its first Big 12 championship with a 35-7 upset of top-ranked Oklahoma in the conference title game. The previously undefeated Sooners looked to be in control early when tailback Kejuan Jones opened the scoring with a 42-yard touchdown run, but the No. 13 Wildcats shut down OU from there and let an explosive offense take over. Tailback Darren Sproles rolled up 323 yards of total offense, quarterback Ell Roberson threw for four touchdowns, and the KSU defense limited Oklahoma to its lowest scoring output since 1998.

** On Dec. 7, 1996, Army erased an 18-point deficit and tallied a 28-24 victory over Navy. At the time, it was the largest comeback in the 96-year history of the series.

** On Dec. 7, 2002, Marshall claimed the Mid-American Conference championship with a thrilling 49-45 win over Toledo. The Thundering Herd took the early lead and enjoyed a 28-17 halftime lead before the Rockets roared back on a pair of third-quarter touchdowns from tailback Trinity Dawson. The teams traded early fourth-quarter scores, and then Marshall QB Byron Leftwich hit wide receiver Darius Watts with a game-winning 40-yard touchdown with only 49 seconds remaining. Leftwich finished the game with 402 yards passing and four touchdowns.

** On Dec. 8, 1959, the first NAIA championship contest was staged between St. Joseph (Ind.) and Montana State. The game ended in a 0-0 tie, and both schools were awarded NAIA championship trophies.

** On Dec. 8, 2001, Hawaii quarterback Nick Rolovich threw for 543 yards and eight touchdowns as the Warriors hung a 72-45 upset on previously unbeaten BYU.

** On Dec. 9, 1876, Yale finished an undefeated season with a 2-0 victory over Columbia in a game held in Hoboken, N.J. The Bulldogs finished their season with a perfect 3-0 record, their third undefeated season in the first five years of football at the university.

** On Dec. 9, 1914, Carlisle (Pa.) scored a 20-3 victory over Alabama in Birmingham. It marked the final game coached at Carlisle by the legendary Glenn “Pop” Warner, who also coached at Georgia, Cornell, Pitt, Stanford and Temple and compiled a record of 312-104-32 during a 44-year coaching career.

** On Dec. 9, 1935, University of Chicago halfback John Jacob “Jay” Berwanger won the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy awarded to the outstanding player east of the Mississippi River. Berwanger was a runaway winner over Army halfback Charles “Monk” Meyer, Notre Dame halfback William Shakespeare and Princeton halfback Pepper Constable. One year after Berwanger won the award, it was renamed the Heisman Memorial Trophy in honor of legendary college coach John Heisman, who died in October 1936.

** On Dec. 11, 1977, College Football Hall of Fame coach Eddie Robinson led his Grambling State team to a 35-32 victory over Temple in the Tokyo Bowl. The Tigers’ victory marked one of the first wins by a historically black college over a Division I-A opponent.

** On Dec. 12, 1925, Hawaii topped Colorado State, 41-0, in Manoa, Hawaii, to push the Warriors’ winning streak to 18 games. It also snapped a 10-game winning streak for the Rams. Hawaii was coached at the time by Otto “Proc” Klum, the winningest coach in school history, who earned a reputation for running up the score on opponents. Twice during the 1926 season, the Warriors scored 101-0 victories.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** When Auburn and Oregon meet in the national championship game, the Tigers will be trying to protect the SEC’s streak of four consecutive titles. The streak began in 2006 when Florida rolled to a 41-14 victory over Ohio State. LSU defeated Ohio State for 2007 title, Florida won again in ’08 with a victory over Oklahoma, and Alabama dumped Texas, 37-21, in last year’s game.

** Auburn will be seeking its first national championship since 1957 while Oregon is looking for its first-ever title.

** Here are the regular-season individual statistical champions for 2010:

Rushing yards – LaMichael James, Oregon, 1,682

Rushing TDs – LaMichael James, Oregon, 21

Passing yards – Bryant Moniz, Hawaii, 4,629

Passing TDs – (tie) Bryant Moniz, Hawaii, and Dominique Davis, East Carolina, 36

Total offense – Bryant Moniz, Hawaii, 4,705

Receptions – Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma, 118

Receiving yards – Greg Salas, Hawaii, 1,675

TD receptions – Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State, 18

Punting – Chas Henry, Florida, 46.41

Punt returns – Shaky Smithson, Utah, 19.7

Punt return TDs – Cliff Harris, Oregon, 4

Kickoff returns – William Powell, Kansas State, 34.6

Kickoff return TDs – Eric Page, Toledo, 3

Scoring – Dan Bailey, Oklahoma State, 137

Field goals – (tie) Danny Hrapmann, Southern Mississippi, and Josh Jasper, LSU, 26

Total tackles – Luke Kuechly, Boston College, 171

Sacks – Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson, 15½

Tackles for loss – Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue, 26

Interceptions – (tie) Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech, and Mana Silva, Hawaii, 8

** In case you missed it, former Illinois defensive star Al Brosky died Nov. 28 at the age of 82. Brosky played with the Fighting Illini from 1950-52 and was a member of the school’s 1951 Big Ten and Rose Bowl championship teams. He finished his career with 29 interceptions, a Division I-A record that still stands. Brosky was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998.

** Once again, here is the schedule for the BCS games: Rose Bowl, Jan. 1, Rose Bowl Stadium, Pasadena, Calif.; Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 1, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.; Orange Bowl, Jan. 3, Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.; Sugar Bowl, Jan. 4, Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, La.; BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 10, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.

FEARLESS FORECAST

Despite picking both Auburn and Oregon to get upset, it wasn’t a bad final week of the regular season for the Forecast. Those were the only two misses in a 5-2 week to leave the straight-up season record at 118-24.

Against the spread, we were oh-so-close to a perfect week. In seven games, we had a push and three losses – Boise State was giving 37½ and beat Utah State by 36; Oregon State was getting 17½ at home against Oregon and lost by 17; and Oklahoma was giving 3½ to Nebraska and won by 3. As the saying goes, however, close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and drive-in movies. The 3-3-1 week made us 81-55-6 ATS for the season.

The Fearless Forecast will take the next couple of weeks off and we’ll check back in when the real bowl season (a.k.a. the BCS) gets under way. Until then, have a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous holiday season.

Some Big Ten Team Is Liable To Get Screwed

You know the old saying about not needing to be a rocket scientist to figure something out? In the case of trying to determine Ohio State’s postseason destination, even a rocket scientist might have some trouble.

There is one rock-solid certainty: In the wake of the Oct. 16 loss at Wisconsin, the Buckeyes are no longer in charge of their own destiny. That now rests squarely in the hands of Michigan State and the Bowl Championship Series. OSU still has several hurdles it must clear if it wants to get to the best bowl game possible, of course, but many things are simply out of the Buckeyes’ control – at least right now.

Michigan State is the last undefeated team left standing in the Big Ten, leaving the Spartans four victories away from their first conference championship since 1990 and their first outright crown since 1987.

Winning out would mean the worst Mark Dantonio’s squad could do is a berth in the Rose Bowl, and the way the college football landscape has seemingly changed each week, an undefeated season could very well land Michigan State in the national championship game.

That’s what happens if the Spartans continue to win. If they trip up somewhere – say at Iowa on Oct. 30 – get out your slide rules and calculators. The possibilities are endless.

For argument’s sake, let’s say Iowa engineers that upset and then Michigan State goes on to beat Minnesota, Purdue and Penn State in its final three games. That is a plausible scenario that would leave Sparty with a 7-1 conference record and 11-1 overall.

Wisconsin, which takes a well-deserved week off Oct. 30, finishes its regular season against good (but certainly not great) opposition. The Badgers are at Purdue, home with Indiana, at Michigan and home with Northwestern, and it wouldn’t be much a stretch to believe Bucky could win each of those games and finish 7-1 in the conference and 11-1 overall.

And then there are the Buckeyes.

Ohio State would obviously need to win the rest of its games to match a 7-1 league record and 11-1 overall mark. That means road victories at Minnesota on Oct. 30 and at Iowa on Nov. 20, and home wins against old rival Penn State on Nov. 13 and archrival Michigan on Nov. 27.

Should the Buckeyes win those games, and all of the other aforementioned scenarios come to pass, there would be a three-way tie for the Big Ten championship between Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State, and which teams receive which bowl bids would be determined by a series of prearranged conference tiebreakers.

The No. 1 tiebreaker is national championship game participation, but since no one can envision a one-loss Big Ten team finishing No. 1 or No. 2 in the final BCS standings, we’ll move quickly to the second tiebreaker.

That one eliminates any ineligible teams. Since the Spartans, Badgers or Buckeyes are under no NCAA sanctions, we can easily dismiss this tiebreaker as well.

And now things begin to get more complicated.

If three teams are tied, and if one team has defeated both of the other teams, that team shall be designated as the Big Ten’s representative to the Rose Bowl. However, since Michigan State and Ohio State will not face one another this season, this tiebreaker is rendered moot.

If three teams are still tied, and if two of the three teams defeated the third team, the third team is eliminated, and the remaining two teams shall revert to the two-team tie procedure.

This tiebreaker is also inoperative because none of the three teams would have beaten the other two. Michigan State beat Wisconsin but not Ohio State, Wisconsin beat Ohio State but not Michigan State, and Ohio State would have beaten neither Michigan State nor Wisconsin.

The next tiebreaker states that if the three teams are still tied, and there is a tie game between two of the three teams, or if two or all three of the teams did not play each other, the representative shall be determined on a percentage basis of all games played.

With overtime implemented in college football since 1996, you wonder why verbiage regarding tie games remains in any tiebreaking criteria. Even so, the percentage basis for all three co-champions would be the same based upon identical overall records.

The tiebreaker formula goes on to state that if three teams are still tied, and one of the three teams is eliminated through the percentage basis of all games played, the remaining two teams shall revert to the two-team tie procedure. But they don’t, so we won’t.

Finally, if the three teams are still tied, and all three teams have the same winning percentage of all games played, the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings shall be the representative.

Now things really begin to get interesting.

The BCS standings released Oct. 24 had Michigan State at No. 5, Wisconsin at No. 10 and Ohio State at No. 11.

Should the Spartans lose to Iowa, they would likely be shuffled back behind Wisconsin and Ohio State in the standings. Meanwhile, a victory at Iowa City would likely benefit the Buckeyes, and Wisconsin will probably not be able to make up much ground since it finishes the season against four unranked teams.

Follow that logic – if you can – and a three-way tie between Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin could put the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl for the season year in a row and leave either the Spartans or the Badgers getting an at-large berth for one of the other BCS bowls.

The worst thing about the entire scenario? Rules state a single conference can send no more than two teams to the BCS in one year, meaning one of those three Big Ten teams is likely to wind up playing in the Capital One Bowl. With all due respect to our friends in Orlando, that would be a pitiful consolation prize for a Big Ten championship team sporting an 11-1 record.

OSU-MINNESOTA TIDBITS

** This marks the 50th meeting between Ohio State and Minnesota with the Buckeyes holding a decisive 42-7 record in the overall series. OSU is 20-4 against the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis, including victories in each of their last 11 trips there. Minnesota hasn’t beaten Ohio State in Minneapolis since 1981, a 35-31 decision in old Memorial Stadium.

** This will mark OSU’s first visit to Minnesota’s two-year-old TCF Bank Stadium. The Buckeyes were a perfect 11-0 against the Gophers in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

** Minnesota hasn’t exactly distinguished itself at its new home. The Gophers are 0-5 at TCF Bank Stadium this season and only 4-8 since the facility opened last year.

** Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel is a perfect 7-0 against the Gophers, including last year’s 38-7 victory in Columbus. The average margin of victory for the Buckeyes in those six games has been 22.7 points.

** The Buckeyes have won seven in a row against the Gophers and 23 of the last 24 meetings. The only Minnesota victory during that stretch was a 29-17 decision in Columbus that ruined OSU’s homecoming in 2000.

** Minnesota interim head coach Jeff Horton will be piloting his second game after Tim Brewster was fired Oct. 16. Horton has a 20-49 record in six previous seasons as a head coach at Nevada (1993) and UNLV (1994-98). He was also quarterbacks coach at Wisconsin from 1999-2005 during which the Badgers enjoyed a 4-2 record against Ohio State.

** The Golden Gophers enter tomorrow night’s game on a seven-game losing streak, their longest since losing 10 in a row to finish out the 2007 season. That 10-game losing streak equaled a school record set in 1957-58 and equaled in 1983.

** This will be the third and final night game of the 2010 regular season for the Buckeyes. They are 1-1 this year and 16-11 overall in primetime under Tressel. OSU is also 0-1 this season and 8-4 overall in Big Ten night games away from home during the Tressel era.

** The Ohio State kickoff return coverage unit will get another test this week with Minnesota junior Troy Stoudermire. He boasts a career kickoff return average of 24.8 yards, and that is good enough for an eighth-place tie all-time in the Big Ten. The longstanding conference leader in career kickoff returns is Stan Brown of Purdue, who averaged 28.8 yards per return from 1968-70.

** The Buckeyes rank among the top 10 schools nationally in nine different statistical categories. They are second in turnover margin (plus-11), third in total defense (234.5 yards per game), pass efficiency defense (94.2) and turnover margin average (plus-1.38), fifth in rushing defense (85.8) and pass defense (148.8), sixth in scoring offense (40.8), and ninth in scoring defense (14.0 points per game) and kickoff return average (26.2).

** Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber is his school’s all-time leader in several offensive categories and among the Big Ten career leaders in several more. That includes fifth in career passing yardage with 10,199. The top four are Drew Brees of Purdue (11,792, 1997-2000), Curtis Painter of Purdue (11,163, 2005-08), Brett Basanez of Northwestern (10,580, 2002-05) and Chuck Long of Iowa (10,461, 1981-85).

** Weber is serving as a Minnesota co-captain for a third season, and according to research by the school’s sports information department, he is one of only 11 players in Division I-A history who have served at least three years as a team captain.

** Minnesota sophomore linebacker Ryan Grant has excellent bloodlines – he is the grandson of former Minnesota Vikings head coach Bud Grant. Before his NFL coaching career, Grant was a three-sport letterman for the Gophers who went on to playing careers in the NBA, NFL and Canadian Football League. Before taking over as head coach of the Vikings in 1967 and leading them to four Super Bowl appearances, Grant won four Grey Cups as head coach of the Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1983, and into the Pro Football Hall of Fame one year later.

** The game will feature a pair of accurate placekickers. Minnesota senior Eric Ellestad made 48 consecutive PATs to begin his career before missing one earlier this season against Wisconsin. Meanwhile, OSU senior Drew Barclay has never missed in 52 career PAT attempts.

** Barclay is a perfect 40 for 40 this season in conversion kicks. That ties him with Tim Williams (1990) among Ohio State kickers for the second-most PATs without a miss in a single season. Vlade Janakievski connected on all 44 of his attempts during the 1977 season.

** With 270 yards against Purdue, OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor moved past the 5,000-yard mark in passing for his career and that makes him only the ninth Ohio State quarterback to pass that milestone. He now has 5,180 for his career, and has moved past Jim Karsatos (5,089, 1984-86) into eighth place on the school’s all-time passing list. Mike Tomczak (5,569, 1981-84) is currently seventh.

** Pryor also became only the seventh active QB in Division I-A with at least 5,000 yards through the air and 1,000 on the ground. The others are Colin Kaepernick of Nevada, Andy Dalton of TCU, Jake Locker of Washington, Austen Arnaud of Iowa State, Tyrod Taylor of Virginia Tech and Diondre Borel of Utah State.

** Additionally, Pryor overtook Troy Smith (6,888, 2003-06) for third place among the school’s career total offense leaders. Pryor now has 6,998 and needs only 154 more to pass Bobby Hoying (7,151, 1992-95) and move into second place all-time. Art Schlichter (8,850, 1978-81) is the OSU career leader.

** Pryor also needs only two more touchdown passes to become only the fifth OSU quarterback ever to toss for 50 or more TDs in his career. The others are Hoying (57), Joe Germaine (56, 1996-98), Smith (54) and Schlichter (50).

** OSU wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher had 86 yards against Purdue and moved into OSU’s all-time top 15 in receiving yardage. With 1,522 career yards, Sanzenbacher moved past John Frank (1,481, 1980-83) into 15th place. Next up is Terry Glenn (1,677, 1993-95).

** This week’s game will be telecast by ABC on a regional basis. Mike Patrick will have the play by play with Craig James providing color analysis and Ray Bentley reporting for the sidelines. Kickoff is set for shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern. (That’s 7 p.m. local time if you’re going to be in Minneapolis.)

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio channels 90 and 121 as well as XM channels 141 and 196.

** If you listen to the games on the Ohio State Radio Network, you can welcome back play-by-play man Paul Keels tomorrow. Keels returns to the broadcast booth after a two-week absence following abdominal surgery.

** Ohio State will take next week off. The Buckeyes’ next game will be at home Nov. 13 against Penn State. Kickoff time and telecast information have yet to be determined.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY

** On Oct. 25, 1980, Purdue quarterback Mark Herrmann threw for 340 yards during his team’s 36-25 victory over Michigan State. Herrmann finished the game with 8,076 career passing yards which broke the NCAA all-time record. By the time he graduated, Hermann has totaled 9,188 passing yards and 707 career completions, both of which were NCAA career records.

** On Oct. 26, 1907, one of the all-time greats made his college football debut. The legendary Jim Thorpe took the field for the first time with the Carlisle (Pa.) Indian Industrial School, and led the Indians to a 26-6 upset of fourth-ranked Penn. The game was held before a crowd of 22,800 at Philadelphia’s historic Franklin Field.

** On Oct. 26, 1985, unranked UTEP used an unusual 2-9 defensive alignment for a 23-16 upset of seventh-ranked BYU, ending the Cougars’ 25-game WAC winning streak.

** On Oct. 27, 1923, the first night game in Big Ten history was held as part of a day-night doubleheader in Chicago. During the afternoon, Chicago took a 20-6 win over Purdue at Stagg Field, and then portable lights were installed at Soldier Field as Illinois shut out Northwestern, 29-0.

** On Oct. 27, 1979, Pitt freshman quarterback Dan Marino came off the bench to throw for 227 yards and two touchdowns, leading the No. 12 Panthers to a 24-7 victory over No. 17 Navy.

** On Oct. 28, 1950, Nevada’s Pat Brady booted an NCAA-record 99-yard punt during a 34-7 loss to Loyola Marymount.

** On Oct. 28, 1967, UTEP quarterback Brooks Dawson set an NCAA record for most consecutive passes completed for a touchdown when he threw six in a row during a 75-12 victory over New Mexico. Making the feat even more remarkable was the fact that the six touchdowns came on Dawson’s first six attempts of the game.

** On Oct. 29, 1988, Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders rushed for 320 yards to lead his No. 12 Cowboys to a 45-27 win over Kansas State. The performance began a five-game stretch during which Sanders rushed for 1,472 yards, the most rushing yards accumulated over a five-game span in NCAA history. He also became only the second player in college football history to gain more than 200 rushing yards in five consecutive games, and the streak propelled Sanders to an NCAA single-season record 2,628 rushing yards and the 1988 Heisman Trophy.

** Also on Oct. 29, 1988, Washington State scored 28 second-half points during a 34-30 upset win over top-ranked UCLA and its All-America quarterback Troy Aikman.

** On Oct. 30, 1982, Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie threw for a school-record 520 yards, but it wasn’t nearly enough as Penn State scored a 52-17 blowout over the Eagles in Chestnut Hill. The Nittany Lions were led by quarterback Todd Blackledge, who threw for 243 yards and three TDs, and running back Curt Warner, who rushed for 183 yards and two scores.

** On Oct. 30, 1999, Washington quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo was a one-man wrecking crew against Stanford. Tuiasosopo became the first player in NCAA history to throw for at least 300 yards and rush for 200 or more in the same game. He threw for 302 yards and added 207 on the ground in a 35-30 victory over the Cardinal.

** On Nov. 1, 1986, Long Beach State’s Mark Templeton set an NCAA single-game record for receptions by a running back with 18 catches for 173 yards during his team’s 14-3 win over Utah State.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** The number of undefeated teams at the Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) level has been reduced to seven. The alphabetical list has dwindled to Auburn, Boise State, Michigan State, Missouri, Oregon, TCU and Utah. (This time last year, there were also seven undefeated teams remaining. They were Alabama, Boise State, Cincinnati, Florida, Iowa, Texas and TCU.)

** Boise State extended the nation’s longest current winning streak to 21 with its 49-20 victory Tuesday night over Louisiana Tech. Meanwhile, Western Kentucky rolled to a 54-21 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette last Saturday, and the Hilltoppers ended the nation’s longest losing streak at 26 games. Akron and New Mexico now share the longest losing streak with eight straight defeats.

** Michigan State has started its season with eight straight wins for the first time since 1966, but while an 8-0 mark may be unusual in East Lansing, it isn’t that rare in the Big Ten. This marks the fifth straight season, and sixth in the last seven, that a conference team has posted at least an 8-0 start. Wisconsin started the 2004 season with a 9-0 record while Ohio State and Michigan were 11-0 heading into their traditional regular-season finale in 2006. The Buckeyes started with 10 straight victories in 2007, Penn State was 9-0 in 2008, and Iowa was 9-0 last season.

** Some other schools around the country are celebrating excellent starts as well. Oregon is 7-0 for the first time since 1933. Missouri is 7-0 for the first time since 1960. And Stanford has started a season 6-1 for the first time since 1970.

** Congratulations also to Baylor, who entered the Associated Press rankings this week for the first time since 1993. The Bears moved up to No. 25 after taking a 47-42 win over Kansas State. It was Baylor’s sixth victory of the season, making them eligible to end a 16-year bowl drought.

** On the flip side is Notre Dame, which lost a 35-17 decision to Navy last weekend. It was the worst loss for the Fighting Irish in the series since a 35-14 loss to the Midshipmen in 1963. Of course, the Mids were ranked No. 4 at that time and led by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Roger Staubach. The last time before last Saturday that Notre Dame had lost by double digits to an unranked Navy team? That was a 33-7 decision in 1956.

** When Florida and Georgia meet tomorrow, the beverages made taste a little watered-down at “The World’s Largest Cocktail Party.” That’s because the Gators and Bulldogs will square off as unranked foes for the first time since 1979.

** Remember when a strong defense always trumped a good offense? It doesn’t seem that way so much anymore. Last week, for example, LSU entered its game against Auburn allowing only 83.6 rushing yards per game, and Auburn finished with 440 yards on the ground. That sent the LSU rush defense from No. 6 in the country to No. 38.

** Three Big Ten quarterbacks are poised to break the conference record for best single-season completion percentage. Dan Persa of Northwestern (75.7), Scott Tolzien of Wisconsin (71.8) and Ricky Stanzi of Iowa (68.1) are all tracking above the single-season mark of 67.8 held since 1993 by Darrell Bevell of Wisconsin.

** Stanzi is also close to the longstanding Big Ten record for best pass efficiency rating in a single season. The Iowa QB heads into play this weekend at 174.9, just shy of the 175.3 established by Michigan’s Bob Chappuis way back in 1947.

** As the leaves begin to fall and October turns to November, I am reminded that I need to come down off the fence and begin formulating an opinion on this year’s Heisman Trophy race. It seems obvious now that Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is the frontrunner. My top three this week would be Newton followed by Boise State QB Kellen Moore and Oregon RB LaMichael James. Also in the running: Stanford QB Andrew Luck, Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor and Michigan QB Denard Robinson.

** Shortly before noon on Monday morning, Yankee Stadium grounds crews began removing the grass around the skin of the field in preparation for the Notre Dame-Army football game to be played Nov. 20. It will be the first college game ever played at the new Yankee Stadium, and the first played at any facility called Yankee Stadium since 1987.

** There are models of consistency and then there is Division III Linfield College (Ore.). The Wildcats scored a 35-20 victory last weekend over Pacific Lutheran (Wash.) and clinched their 55th consecutive winning season. Linfield is coached by Joseph Smith, currently in his fifth season as head coach. Smith was a four-year starting cornerback for the Wildcats in the early 1990s and was an assistant at Linfield for 13 seasons before taking over the program in 2006.

FEARLESS FORECAST

It was another good week at Forecast Headquarters with only one miss in the straight up picks – and that was Iowa’s one-point loss to Wisconsin. That meant an 8-1 week to push the SU ledger to 73-12 for the season.

Against the spread, we had another winning week at 6-3 which made us 52-30-3 ATS for the season.

We’ll try to keep it going with these games this week.

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Northwestern at Indiana: The Wildcats don’t have an all-time winning record against many conference opponents but they do against the Hoosiers. Northwestern enjoys a 43-34-1 advantage in the series, and perhaps none was more exciting than last year’s 29-28 verdict in Evanston when the Wildcats overcame a 28-3 second-quarter deficit. That meltdown wrecked what had been a promising season at IU as the Hoosiers went on to finish 2009 with five consecutive losses. In fact, they are currently working on an eight-game conference losing streak that figures to get extended if Bill Lynch doesn’t get some of his team’s defensive problems fixed … Northwestern 36, Indiana 30. (12 noon ET, BTN)

No. 22 Miami (Fla.) at Virginia: The Hurricanes are like most middle-of-the-road college football teams – they beat the teams they’re supposed to while struggling against stronger competition. This was supposed to be the year Miami returned to greatness, and while a 5-2 record is pretty good, the Hurricanes have feasted on the likes of Florida A&M and Duke while getting outscored 81-41 in their two losses to Ohio State and Florida State. This week, it should be feasting time again since the Cavaliers have lost three of their last four games, and been outscored by a whopping 111-45 in three conference games so far … Miami 38, Virginia 17. (12 noon ET, ESPN)

Akron at Temple: Since going to Motor City Bowl after the 2005 season, the Zips have lost their zip. Actually, that would be something of an understatement. Since losing that Motor City Bowl game to Memphis, the Zips haven’t enjoyed a winning season and have a 17-39 record over that span. That includes an 0-8 record so far this season, and that dismal record only tells part of the story. There are 120 schools that play Division I-A football and Akron ranks 115th in scoring offense and 118th in scoring defense. That makes it difficult to see how the Zips avoid their first winless season since the 1942 team went 0-7-2 … Temple 41, Akron 10. (1 p.m. ET, No TV)

No. 5 Michigan State at No. 18 Iowa: While the Spartans have found exciting ways to keep their undefeated season going, the Hawkeyes have seemingly invented new ways to self-destruct. Last week’s 31-30 heartbreaker against Wisconsin was a prime example with special teams gaffes, a missed PAT and absolutely atrocious clock management at the end of the game. The pressure to win is equally divided tomorrow. The Spartans now have an outside shot at playing for the national championship while the Hawkeyes have a whole bunch of Ohio State and Wisconsin fans in their corner hoping Iowa can somehow play a mistake-free game. A lot of people are playing the upset card here, especially since MSU hasn’t won in Iowa City since 1989. But the Hawkeyes have yet to convince us they can rise to the occasion … Michigan State 23, Iowa 20. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN)

No. 1 Auburn at Mississippi: After rising to the top of the BCS standings, the Tigers had better be on upset alert tomorrow in Oxford. That’s not because former No. 1s Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma have gone down in successive weeks. It’s because Auburn has been anything but invincible in its two previous road games, squeezing out narrow three-point victories at Mississippi State in early September and at Kentucky three weeks ago. It’s because Ole Miss has a pretty good passing game with QB Jeremiah Masoli and the Tigers rank dead last in the SEC in pass defense. And it’s because the Rebels seem to have no fear going against highly-ranked teams – they are 3-3 in their six games against top-10 opponents. All of that isn’t quite enough to pull the trigger on an Upset Special, but don’t be surprised if Ole Miss gives the Tigers all they can handle … Auburn 27, Mississippi 17. (6 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 2 Oregon at USC: While Auburn is on upset alert, the Ducks should be, too, when they visit the Coliseum to face the Trojans who have had two weeks to prepare for this game. Last year, the Quack Attack buried USC under an avalanche of 613 total yards during a 47-20 blowout. But the Trojans have a different defensive scheme this season under new head coach Lane Kiffin, and quarterback Matt Barkley is much more comfortable under center in his second season as the starter. Will that make the difference? Unlikely. With Barkley winging the ball all over the lot, USC can probably stay in the game a little longer this year but the Trojans just don’t have the kind of defensive personnel that can hold off the Ducks for a full 60 minutes … Oregon 52, USC 27. (8 p.m. ET, ABC Regional)

Colorado at No. 9 Oklahoma: Are the Sooners overrated or simply underachievers? A team that was supposed to contend for a national championship has instead struggled at times, especially in crunch time. In its seven games this season, OU has been outscored by a 67-30 margin in the fourth quarter and you sometimes get the feeling that Bob Stoops’ team loses its focus at odds times during a game. That is always a recipe for disaster although it might not make much difference against the hapless Buffaloes. Colorado lost two key players during last week’s 27-24 loss to Texas Tech. Sophomore LB Jon Major, the team’s leading tackler, is gone for the rest of the season with a torn ACL, and starting quarterback Tyler Hansen is sidelined with a ruptured spleen. If the Sooners can’t take care of business this week, when will they ever? … Oklahoma 37, Colorado 10. (9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Utah State at No. 24 Nevada: The Wolf Pack are not on par with Boise State, TCU or Utah, but they are extremely entertaining and probably deserving of a much higher national ranking. They have an excellent quarterback in Colin Kaepernick, who should be getting at least a little bit of Heisman Trophy love since he is seventh in the nation in total offense. Kaepernick leads an offensive attack that averages 39.9 points and 509.3 yards per game, and that should be more than enough tomorrow night. The Aggies have lost four of their five games, including the last two by a combined 56 points … Nevada 41, Utah State 7. (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 4 TCU at UNLV: The task is a relatively simple one for the Horned Frogs. They must stay undefeated to have a chance at playing for the national championship. That shouldn’t be much of a problem this week since TCU rarely gets caught up in the glitz and glitter of Sin City. They have won three of their four trips to Las Vegas, and seven of eight in the series overall. That includes a 41-0 stampede a year ago in Fort Worth, a result that could be repeated tomorrow night. The Frogs are No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 9.0 points per game, while the Rebels are 106th nationally in scoring offense, averaging 18.4 points per game. You know the old saying: You can’t win if you can’t score … TCU 45, UNLV 7. (11 p.m. ET, CBS College Sports)

No. 10 Ohio State at Minnesota: In a season that has already featured plenty of Jekyll-and-Hyde moments, which costumes will the Buckeyes don tomorrow night when the Golden Gophers throw their Halloween party at TCF Bank Stadium? Will OSU come dressed as an efficient passing team as it did against Indiana and in the second quarter last week against Purdue? Or will the Buckeyes show up as the ground-it-out rushing team they appeared to be early in the second half at Wisconsin? Perhaps they will feel unmotivated and just throw something together at the last minute as they appeared to do early against Wisconsin. The scariest thing about this Ohio State team is that it is nearing the three-quarter pole of the 2010 season and the Buckeyes are still searching for their own identity. Not that it will matter much against the Gophers, who occupy last place in the Big Ten standings and deservedly so. OSU should go to Minnesota and win by 50 points because that’s what championship teams do. But are the Buckeyes a championship team or simply masquerading as one? Stay tuned … Ohio State 45, Minnesota 10. (8 p.m. ET, ABC Regional)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Northwestern (-3) at Indiana; Miami-FL (-14½) at Virginia; Akron at Temple (-28½); Michigan State (+7) at Iowa; Auburn (-6½) at Mississippi; Oregon (-6½) at USC; Colorado at Oklahoma (-23½); Utah State at Nevada (-25½); TCU (-34½) at UNLV; Ohio State (-25) at Minnesota.

Enjoy the games

Buckeyes Merely Need To Take Care Of Business

If there is one sure thing about college football, it is that there is no such thing as a sure thing.

“One week you’re drinking the wine, the next week you’re stomping the grapes” was one of former Ohio State head coach John Cooper’s all-time great sayings and Ol’ Coop sure knew what he was talking about.

Over the course of a few short hours last Saturday, the college football landscape turned upside down as one head-scratcher after another revealed itself.

South Carolina turned defending national champion Alabama from an invincible dynasty-in-the-making to just another one-loss team. Meanwhile, Michigan State exposed seemingly superhuman Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson as just another Clark Kent, and lowly Illinois took advantage of several Penn State mistakes to post an unlikely 33-13 victory over the Nittany Lions, who were celebrating homecoming in Happy Valley.

Making those outcomes even more astounding was the historical significance of each game.

Before its 35-21 win over Alabama, South Carolina had never beaten a top-ranked team in four previous tries. Michigan State’s 34-17 win over Michigan was the Spartans’ third straight over their in-state rivals, and they haven’t enjoyed a three-peat in the series since 1965-67. And the Fighting Illini won for the first time in seven trips all-time to Happy Valley, and Joe Paterno lost for only the sixth time in 45 homecomings.

Want more proof of how topsy-turvy college football can be from week to week? On Sept. 18, California was brutalized by upstart Nevada of the WAC during a 52-31 blowout. One week later, UCLA traveled to Austin and handed then No. 7 Texas a 34-12 loss, the worst home defeat for the Longhorns since Mack Brown took over as head coach in 1998. So what happened when Cal and UCLA got together Oct. 9 for a Pac-10 showdown in Berkeley? The Bears raced out to a 28-0 first-half lead before putting the Bruins away by a 35-7 final.

What’s the point of all this? Simply a few cautionary tales for the suddenly No. 1-ranked Ohio State football team who would do well to remember another Coop-ism: “About the time you’re feeling pretty good about yourself, it’s time to check your hole card.”

There is little doubt in my mind that Ohio State deserves to be ranked the No. 1 team in the nation. I have maintained since the team’s Rose Bowl win over Oregon that I fully expect the Buckeyes to be playing for the national championship come next January. Now, halfway through the 2010 regular season, there is no reason to change my mind. Every team that remains on the schedule has been exposed in one way or another, and OSU will be favored – and rightfully so – in each of those final six games.

Wisconsin has been susceptible to the pass all season, and the Badgers allowed Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins to throw for 269 yards and three touchdowns. No offense to Cousins, but I’d take Terrelle Pryor over him every day of the week and twice on Saturdays.

Purdue has been decimated on offense by injuries and Ohio State will be seeking revenge for last year’s upset loss. Minnesota could be the worst team in the Big Ten right now, and a rebuilding Penn State might not be that much better than the Gophers.

That leaves Iowa and archrival Michigan.

The Hawkeyes have lost 11 of their last 12 against OSU as well as 14 of their last 17 to the Buckeyes in Kinnick Stadium, and the jury remains out on whether the Wolverines are truly back or not. They looked pretty good early last season, too, before finishing 5-7.

Of course, the national naysayers would have everyone believe the Buckeyes are too flawed to be a legitimate No. 1 team. Many of them are picking Wisconsin to upset OSU tomorrow night. The pompous prattlers believe there are too many underlying issues with Ohio State including an offensive line that is perceived to be underachieving, a relatively punchless running game, injuries that are depleting the defensive secondary and the ticking time bomb that is kickoff and punt coverage.

Granted, I have been among the chronic complainers about all of the aforementioned warts and blemishes. But it could very well be a case of nitpicking at unrealistic expectations.

The Buckeyes are currently the No. 6 team in the nation in scoring offense, so the offensive line must be doing something right. It may also interest you to know that the lackluster run game is generating 217.3 yards per game, and that ranks 20th in the country.

Season-ending injuries to C.J. Barnett and Tyler Moeller were bitter pills to swallow, but the OSU defense continues to soldier on and excel. It ranks third nationally in total defense and is the country’s sixth-toughest unit to score on.

And then there are the kick coverage units. Since allowing a 99-yard kickoff return to Ohio’s Julian Posey – a touchdown that was wiped out by a penalty – the Buckeyes have not only shored up their coverage, they have shut down the opposition. Over the past three games, they have allowed an average of only 15.8 yards on 24 kickoffs, and the punt coverage has been even better. Eastern Michigan, Illinois and Indiana averaged 2.4 yards on 10 punts.

Every team at every competitive level in every competitive sport has some flaws, and Ohio State has its share. But if the Buckeyes can simply play to the level of their own talent – and not down to the level of their competition – they can not only march their way to the national championship game, they can win it no matter the opponent.

They simply have to keep in mind how much better it is to drink the wine than to stomp the grapes.

OSU-WISCONSIN TIDBITS

** This marks the 76th meeting of Ohio State and Wisconsin, and the Buckeyes hold a decidedly lopsided 53-17-5 record in the overall series including 24-10-2 in Madison. OSU has won four of its last five trips to Camp Randall Stadium. Since 1999, however, the series has been tight with the Buckeyes holding a slight 5-4 advantage.

** Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel is in his 10th season with the Buckeyes. He has an 100-21 overall record, including 4-3 against Wisconsin. He is 61-13 in the Big Ten and 35-14 against ranked teams. The Badgers are ranked No. 16 in this week’s USA Today coaches’ poll as well as the Harris Interactive Poll. They are No. 18 in the Associated Press writers’ poll.

** Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema is in his fifth season with the Badgers. He has a 43-15 overall record, including 0-3 against Ohio State. He is 21-13 in the Big Ten and 5-10 against ranked teams. That includes an 0-4 mark against teams ranked in the top 10. The Buckeyes are ranked No. 1 this week in all three national polls.

** With 43 wins, Bielema is already sixth all-time in career victories among Wisconsin head coaches. He needs only four more to move into fourth place past Dave McClain (46, 1978-85) and Harry Stuhldreher (45, 1936-48). Barry Alvarez (1990-2005) is the school’s all-time winningest coach with 118 victories.

** Wisconsin hasn’t had much success over the years against top-ranked teams. The Badgers are 14-58-2 all-time against top-five opponents, a mark that includes 3-16 against teams ranked No. 1. However, all three of Wisconsin’s victories against top-ranked teams have come at Camp Randall Stadium.

** The last time the Badgers played a No. 1 team was in 2007 when they lost a 38-17 decision to Ohio State in Columbus. The last time Wisconsin beat a No. 1 team came in the 1981 season opener when the Badgers handed Michigan a 21-14 upset loss in Madison.

** The Buckeyes made their 94th appearance at the No. 1 spot in the AP poll this week, the third-highest total since the AP began ranking college football teams in 1936. Only Oklahoma (98) and Notre Dame (95) have been atop the poll more.

** Ohio State has an all-time record of 66-11-1 playing as the nation’s No. 1-ranked team.

** Wisconsin has played Ohio State six times when the Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 and have a 1-5 record in those games. The only UW victory came in 1942 when the Badgers took a 17-7 win at Camp Randall Stadium in what has become known as “The Bad Water Game.” Several members of the OSU squad became ill after drinking tainted water on the train to Madison and the game wound up as the only blemish on the Buckeyes’ 1942 record. They still went on to win the school’s first-ever national championship that year.

** In the Tressel era, Ohio State is 13-6 on the road against ranked teams. The Buckeyes also have an eight-game winning streak in Big Ten road games against teams ranked in the AP top 25.

** Ohio State has won 19 of its last 20 conference road games. The only blemish during that streak was last year’s 26-18 upset loss to Purdue last season.

** OSU has a 27-13 record away from home in night games. Under Tressel, the Buckeyes are 16-10 after dark overall and that includes an 8-3 mark in Big Ten night games played on the road.

** Wisconsin has won 40 of its last 44 games at Camp Randall Stadium. That includes 13 of the last 14 with the only blemish a 20-10 loss to Iowa last season.

** The Badgers will be trying to get an early upper hand in the game. They are 32-4 under Bielema when they score first.

** Former All-America receiver Lee Evans will serve as honorary captain for the Badgers. Evans caught a 79-yard touchdown pass to give Wisconsin a 17-10 victory over Ohio State in 2003, a night game at Camp Randall that snapped the Buckeyes’ 19-game winning streak.

** As it has been so many times in this series, the game will feature a classic matchup between the irresistible force and the immovable object. Wisconsin ranks second in the Big Ten in rushing with an average of 240.8 yards per game while Ohio State ranks second in the conference against the run, surrendering an average of only 78.7 yards per contest.

** Wisconsin has been pretty good against the run this year as well. The Badgers rank third in the Big Ten, giving up an average of 108.2 yards per game, and they have allowed just one rushing touchdown so far in six games.

** In Tressel’s 121 games with the Buckeyes, opposing teams have totaled 175 or more yards on the ground only 11 times. Wisconsin has three of those 11 performances, including 179 two years ago during a 20-17 loss to Ohio State in Madison.

** UW quarterback Scott Tolzien is completing 69.7 percent of his attempts so far this season and his career percentage of 65.8 is the best in school history. Tolzien has the third-best career completion percentage among active Division I-A quarterbacks who have played 20 games or more. Only Case Keenum of Houston (68.9) and Kellen Moore of Boise State (66.8) rank ahead of the Wisconsin QB.

** You should not expect a shutout in tomorrow night’s game. Wisconsin hasn’t been shut out since a 34-0 loss to Syracuse in the 1997 season opener and the Buckeyes haven’t been blanked since a 28-0 loss at Michigan in the 1993 regular-season finale.

** Wisconsin has 13 Ohio natives on its roster. Ohio State has no Wisconsin-born players.

** Camp Randall Stadium, which opened in 1917, is the fourth-oldest on-campus stadium in Division I-A. The only older facilities are Bobby Dodd Stadium at Georgia Tech (1913), Davis Wade Stadium at Mississippi State (1914) and Nippert Stadium at Cincinnati (1916).

** With last week’s win over Indiana, Ohio State became one of only seven bowl-eligible teams so far this season. The others are Auburn, LSU, Michigan State, Nevada, Oregon and TCU.

** Wisconsin senior David Gilreath is one of the most prolific kickoff return men in Big Ten history. He already holds the conference record with 116 career kickoff returns and is third all-time in kickoff return yardage with 2,514. Derrick Mason of Michigan State (1993-96) is the Big Ten career leader with 2,575 yards on kickoff returns.

** With 315 yards of total offense last week against Indiana, Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor increased his career total to 6,518 and moved past Steve Bellisari (6,496, 1998-2001) into fourth place on the school’s career list in that category. The top three are Art Schlichter (8,850, 1978-81), Bobby Hoying (7,151, 1992-95) and Troy Smith (6,888, 2003-06).

** With his sixth career game of 300 or more yards of total offense, Pryor tied the school record set by Joe Germaine (1996-98).

** Pryor also increased his career passing yardage to 4,754 and pushed his way past Craig Krenzel (4,493, 2000-03) into ninth place on the school’s all-time list. Jim Karsatos (5,089, 1984-86) is currently eighth.

** OSU kicker Devin Barclay is currently tied for the nation’s third-longest streak of consecutive games with at least one field goal. Barclay has had at least one field goal in seven straight games. Georgia kicker Blair Walsh is first with 14 in a row while Dustin Hopkins of Florida State is second with eight. Danny Hrapmann of Southern Mississippi and Collin Wager of Penn State are tied with Barclay at seven.

** This week’s game will be telecast by ESPN with the marquee primetime announce crew of Brent Musberger (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (color analysis) and Erin Andrews (sideline reports). The game will also be telecast by ESPN3-D with Dave Lamont, Tim Brown and Ray Bentley on the call. Kickoff is set for shortly after 7 p.m. Eastern. (That is 6 p.m. local time if you’re in Madison.)

** Madison will this week’s site of ESPN’s College GameDay, which begins at 9 a.m. Eastern on ESPNU and continues at 10 a.m. on ESPN.

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio channels 90 and 122 as well as XM channels 143 and 196. Sports Radio USA will also broadcast the game with Rich Cellini and former Northwestern head coach Gary Barnett on the call.

** Next week, Ohio State returns to Ohio Stadium to Purdue in the annual homecoming game. Kickoff is set for 12 noon Eastern and the game will be televised by the Big Ten Network.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY

** On Oct. 11, 1975, Division II schools Lenoir-Rhyne (N.C.) and Davidson (N.C.) College combined to set an NCAA single-game rushing record as the Bears topped the Wildcats, 69-14. Lenoir-Rhyne rushed for an amazing 837 yards while Davidson added 202, establishing a new NCAA record with 1,039 combined rushing yards on 111 attempts.

** On Oct. 12, 2002, Northern Illinois trailed Miami (Ohio) by a 27-14 score entering the fourth quarter. The Huskies proceeded to score 34 points in the final period to rally for a 48-41 victory, establishing a MAC record for most points scored in a fourth-quarter comeback win.

** On Oct. 13, 2007, Houston became the only team in NCAA history to have a 300-yard receiver and a 200-yard rusher in the same game as the Cougars scored a wild 56-48 victory over Rice. Houston wide receiver Donnie Avery caught 13 passes for 346 yards – a school and Conference USA record – while tailback Anthony Aldridge added 205 yards rushing.

** On Oct. 14, 1978, Cornell running back Joe Holland rushed for 244 yards on an Ivy League-record 55 carries to lead the Big Red to a 25-20 victory at Harvard.

** On Oct. 15, 1910, officials at the University of Illinois decided it would be a good idea to invite alumni back to the campus for a football game. More than 1,500 returned to Champaign and watched as the Fighting Illini beat Chicago, 3-0, in what is recognized as the first official homecoming game in college football history.

** On Oct. 15, 2005, USC quarterback Matt Leinart was pushed across the goal line in the final seconds by teammate Reggie Bush and the top-ranked Trojans escaped South Bend with a 34-31 win over No. 9 Notre Dame. The play has come to be known as the “Bush Push.”

** On Oct. 16, 1976, Texas A&M kicker Tony Franklin showcased his strong right leg and set an NCAA record in the process. Franklin became the first kicker in college football history to boot a pair of field goals from 60 yards or longer in the same game. He had three-pointers of 64 and 65 yards during a 24-0 victory over Baylor in College Station. Franklin’s 65-yarder established a new NCAA record for the longest field goal in college football history, but the mark didn’t last long. Later that same day, Abilene Christian kicker Ove Johansson booted a 69-yarder against East Texas State. Johansson’s record still stands.

** On Oct. 17, 1970, Southern Miss went into Oxford and engineered a 30-14 upset over fourth-ranked Mississippi and Heisman Trophy candidate Archie Manning.

** On Oct. 18, 1958, No. 2 Auburn’s 17-game winning streak came to an end with a 7-7 tie against unranked Georgia Tech. The Tigers went on to close the 1958 season with six straight victories, but the tie with the Yellow Jackets cost Auburn a second consecutive national championship.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** The number of undefeated teams at the Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) level is down to a lucky 13. Alphabetically they are Auburn, Boise State, LSU, Michigan State, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, TCU and Utah.

** With Alabama’s loss last weekend, Boise State now owns the nation’s longest current winning streak at 19. Western Kentucky, which lost a 28-21 decision Oct. 9 to previously winless Florida International, ran its losing nation-long losing streak to 25.

** Michigan State has started 6-0 for the first time since 1999 and will be looking for a win this week against Illinois to push that mark to 7-0. The Spartans haven’t won that many games to start a season since they were 9-0 at the beginning of the 1966 campaign, a season that resulted in the second of their back-to-back national championships under head coach Hugh “Duffy” Daugherty.

** The Big Ten leads all conferences with five quarterbacks currently ranked among the nation’s top 12 in pass efficiency. Rick Stanzi of Iowa, who leads the conference and is third nationally, is followed Dan Persa of Northwestern (fourth), Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor (sixth), Kirk Cousins of Michigan State (ninth) and Michigan’s Denard Robinson (12th). The SEC has four quarterbacks ranked among the top 12 while the WAC, Pac-10 and Big 12 have one each.

** TCU has been one of the top defensive teams in the country for several years but the Horned Frogs accomplished a rare feat last weekend with their 45-0 win over Wyoming. It was TCU’s second straight shutout, something that hasn’t occurred for that program in 55 years. The Frogs last posted back-to-back shutouts in 1955 when they blanked Texas Tech, Arkansas and Alabama in succession on their way to the Southwest Conference championship.

** Is LSU a team of destiny or are the Tigers getting by on pure luck? Half of their wins have come cardiac style – a goal-line stand against North Carolina, a last-second penalty against Tennessee and a favorable review following a fake field goal against Florida. The Bengals from the Bayou should have no trouble getting to 7-0 since they play I-AA McNeese State this week. After that, it’s make or break time – at Auburn on Oct. 23 and home with Alabama on Nov. 6.

** There was no luck involved in Utah’s 68-27 dismantling of Iowa State last week. The Utes piled up a staggering 1,026 yards when you add their total offense to kickoff, punt and interception returns.

** Congratulations to Army, Air Force and Navy. The military academics are currently 12-5 after victories by all three last Saturday. Air Force (5-1) rolled to a 49-27 win over Colorado State, Army (4-2) went on the road to take a 41-23 victory over Tulane, and Navy (3-2) scored a touchdown with 26 seconds remaining to squeeze out a 28-27 win at Wake Forest. The key to the academies’ success this season? Running the football. Air Force is No. 1 nationally in rushing while Army is No. 9 and Navy is No. 10. By the way, the last time all three service academies finished the season with winning records was 1999.

** Congratulations also to South Carolina. When the Gamecocks knocked off top-rated Alabama, it completed a rare trifecta for the school. In the same calendar year, the SC basketball team defeated No. 1 Kentucky and the baseball team downed top-ranked Arizona State. The only school to knock off No. 1 teams in those three sports in the same calendar year was Florida in 2007.

** Figure this one out (if you can): In its first five games, Alabama averaged 229.8 yards per game on the ground. In its previous game before upsetting the Crimson Tide last week, South Carolina gave up 334 rushing yards to Auburn. Then last Saturday, Alabama had only 36 yards on the ground.

** Call it the power of television. Boise State received 138 new student applications after its Sept. 25 football game against Oregon State was broadcast nationally in primetime by ABC. That may seem like a modest number but it was nearly double the amount received by the school after a typical weekend.

** The team you don’t want to play after they’ve had a week off? Oklahoma. The Sooners are 14-3 under head coach Bob Stoops after a week off and that includes a perfect 12-0 mark at home. Bear that in mind if you’re thinking Iowa State has a chance to go into Norman this week and pull the upset. OU had last week off after a 28-20 victory over Texas on Oct. 2. One more thing: The Sooners are also 11-0 during Stoops’ tenure in games that have immediately followed the Red River Shootout.

** The Pasadena City Council on Monday approved a $152 million renovation plan for the 88-year-old Rose Bowl stadium. Construction will run in three phases beginning in January and ending in 2013 to avoid disrupting games. The number of luxury seats will be increased from about 550 to 2,500, and the facility will get a new scoreboard, safety improvements, more restrooms and more concession stands. The city plans to pay for the upgrade with federal stimulus funds, a bond issue, money from the Tournament of Roses and profits from previous games.

** Kent State will honor former quarterback Josh Cribbs on Oct. 30 by retiring his No. 9 jersey. Cribbs, who holds the NFL record with eight kickoff returns for touchdowns, set several marks during his four seasons with the Golden Flashes from 2001-04, including the career passing record with 7,169 yards. Cribbs will be only the fourth former Kent player to have his jersey retired. The others are running back Eric Wilkerson (40), Canadian Football Hall of Fame defensive end Jim Corrigall (79) and Pro Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert (99).

** Also taking advantage of the Cleveland Browns’ off week will be the University of Texas, which plans to retire the jersey No. 12 worn by former quarterback Colt McCoy on Oct. 30. The Longhorns’ career leader in touchdown passes and passing yardage, McCoy will become the sixth Texas player to have his number retired. The others – quarterback Vince Young (10), Heisman Trophy winners Earl Campbell (20) and Ricky Williams (34), Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Layne (22) and College Football Hall of Fame linebacker Tommy Nobis (60).

** NAIA rivals Union College (Ky.) and Bethel University (Tenn.) had a good old-fashioned shootout last Saturday that featured 139 points and 1,501 yards of total offense. When the dust finally settled, Union had scored an 84-55 victory behind tailback Armond Smith, who rushed for 312 yards and five touchdowns on only 16 carries. Amazingly, the combined point total was not an NAIA record. That was set at 141 in 1994 when Southwestern College (Kan.) scored a 79-62 victory over Sterling (Kan.) College.

** The initial BCS standings of the 2010 season will be released Sunday. They will be revealed on ESPN at 8:15 p.m. Eastern. And just so you know: Only six of 12 times has the team ranked No. 1 in the first BCS standings of the season gone on to play in the national championship game.

FEARLESS FORECAST

It was wild last weekend across the college football landscape with plenty of upsets. We still managed to perform fairly well but slipped to a season-low 9-4 week straight up that puts the yearly ledger at 57-9. Against the spread, we were back above water again with an 8-5 mark. The ATS scoreboard is now a pretty stellar 38-25-3 for the season.

Here are the games we’ll be watching this week.

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Boston College at No. 16 Florida State: Would you believe the Seminoles are the highest ranked team in Florida this week for the first time since 2005? That’s right. After rolling to a 45-17 victory over Miami (Fla.) last weekend, the Fighting Jimbos are looking at their best start in five years. On the other side of the field will be the Eagles, who are headed in the opposite direction. BC has lost three in a row, its longest losing streak since losing six straight in 1998. What’s worse is that the Eagles haven’t even been in any of those three games, losing to Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and North Carolina State by a combined score of 94-30. Those are all decent teams but none that would be confused for a powerhouse this year, so it stands to reason BC’s struggles will continue when it visits Tallahassee … Florida State 31, Boston College 14. (12 noon ET, ESPN)

Illinois at No. 13 Michigan State: The next time someone tries to explain away a loss because a team was distracted, bring up the Spartans. How much more of a distraction can you have than your head coach suffering a midseason heart attack and being away from his full-time duties? That is exactly what has happened with Mark Dantonio, and yet his team is off to its best start since 1999. This week the Spartans will try to keep things going against the upstart Fighting Illini, who played Ohio State tough two weeks and took Penn State to the woodshed last week. This should be a battle of strong defenses with veteran MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins figuring to outplay freshman counterpart Nathan Scheelhaase of Illinois … Michigan State 23, Illinois 13. (12 noon ET, BTN)

Texas at No. 5 Nebraska: How good are the Cornhuskers? We don’t really know for sure because although they have rolled to a 5-0 start by outscoring their opponents, 208-64, Nebraska has played five teams with a combined 10-15 record. How much of a step up in competition does Bo Pelini’s team take this week? Again, we really don’t know for sure. The Longhorns are unranked for the first time since 2000 and staring at their first three-game regular-season losing streak since 1997. One thing we do know for sure: Nebraska has had this game circled ever since a 12-10 loss to Texas in last year’s Big 12 Championship Game. The Longhorns have won eight of the past nine meetings in the series, but history isn’t going to be of much help to the Mack Attack this time around … Nebraska 41, Texas 17. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN)

No. 15 Iowa at Michigan: The Wolverines get a shot at redemption this week after their high-flying offense was grounded last week in a 34-24 loss to Michigan State. Unfortunately for U-M, the Hawkeyes come to Ann Arbor with a defense that is one of the best in college football. Iowa ranks No. 1 in scoring defense and No. 4 in total defense, allowing only 10.2 points and 242.2 yards per game. Michigan QB Denard Robinson cannot afford to make the mistakes he made last week and expect to do anything against the Hawkeyes. He led a second-half comeback last year against Iowa, but threw a pick in the final minute before the Hawkeyes finally salted away a 30-28 victory. Could it be that close again this year? Michigan is 23-5-3 at home against the Hawkeyes and has won 11 of the last 15 in the overall series. But it’s just difficult to believe the Wolverines can find enough holes in that Iowa defense to outscore the Hawkeyes … Iowa 27, Michigan 21. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN)

No. 10 Utah at Wyoming: You think potential BCS busters Boise State or TCU get no respect? How about the Utes? They have been bludgeoning opponents without remorse the past couple of weeks, averaging 60.0 points over their last three games. Of course, their marquee win so far is a 27-24 victory over an underachieving Pittsburgh team, so maybe Utah is getting more respect than it deserves. On the field, things don’t figure to be much different this week as the Cowboys should be the Utes’ latest victim. They have already played Boise and TCU, losing those games by a combined score of 96-6. Wyoming has one of the worst attacks in college football this year, ranking 120th of 120 Division I-A teams in rushing and total offense and 118th in scoring. It all spells blowout … Utah 62, Wyoming 6. (6 p.m. ET, The Mtn.)

McNeese State at No. 9 LSU: Thanks to some good fortune – some would say divine intervention – the Tigers have managed to claw their way to six victories in as many games and need a win this week for the program’s best start since 1973. Lost amid all the talk of how lucky LSU has been is the fact that Les Miles has himself a pretty stout defense. The Tigers rank fifth nationally in total defense and sixth against the run, allowing an average of only 80.7 yards per game. That doesn’t bode well for their Division I-AA opponents, who will be without leading rusher Marcus Wiltz, who has undergone season-ending knee surgery. After all those close calls the past couple of weeks, the Bayou Bengals should be able to breathe a little easier this week … LSU 34, McNeese State 3. (7 p.m. ET, FSN Regional)

Iowa State at No. 6 Oklahoma: The Sooners are flying under the BCS radar – as much as the undefeated No. 6 team in the nation can fly under the radar. It could be that OU hasn’t exactly been dazzling so far, winning four of its five games by eight points or fewer. For some reason, the Sooners aren’t getting much out of their running attack even though senior tailback DeMarco Murray (551 yards, nine TDs) is generally regarded as a future NFL star. Murray should be able to find some holes this week since the Cyclones rank 102nd nationally against the run and gave up 239 yards and four touchdowns to Utah’s ground game during a 68-27 loss last week … Oklahoma 38, Iowa State 14. (7 p.m. ET, FSN Regional)

No. 3 Boise State at San Jose State: So you wanna be a college football coach do you? Take the plight of first-year San Jose State head coach Mike MacIntyre. His team has already faced Alabama, Wisconsin, Utah and Nevada, and lost to those ranked teams by a combined score of 166-33. Now the high-flying Broncos invade northern California looking to make a statement so they can stay in the forefront of the BCS national championship discussion. Pity MacIntyre and his Spartans, who have had trouble moving the ball this year no matter who the opponent has been … Boise State 52, San Jose State 3. (8 p.m. ET, WAC Sports Network)

Mississippi at No. 8 Alabama: It really doesn’t seem fair that nearly every Crimson Tide opponent this year plays Alabama after an off week. South Carolina used that formula – along with a withering run defense – to knock off the defending national champions last week. This week, Ole Miss gets its turn after taking last week off to prepare for its trip to Tuscaloosa. The extra week of preparation was probably a welcome one. The Rebels have lost six in a row in the overall series, nine in a row at Bryant-Denny Stadium and 23 of their last 24 in Tuscaloosa. First-year quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is getting more and more comfortable running the Rebels offense, and Ole Miss has won four of its last five against ranked opponents. But you have to believe the Tide players will be in foul mood after last week’s loss and looking for someone on which they can take out their frustration … Alabama 31, Mississippi 13. (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 1 Ohio State at No. 18 Wisconsin: Ranked teams. Night game. Nationwide television audience. How much hype do you need as the Buckeyes try to stay atop the national rankings with a trip to rowdy and raucous Camp Randall Stadium? There are about a thousand storylines but really only one key – the Ohio State defense against the Wisconsin running game. Simply put, if the Buckeyes can stonewall the one-two punch of John Clay and James White ( a combined 1,177 yards and 17 TDs), the OSU offense that has been purring so well behind Terrelle Pryor has the ability to run away with the game. How practical is it to believe the Buckeyes can stop Clay and White? Michigan State drew up the blueprints when Sparty held the Badgers to a season-low 165 yards on the ground in a 34-24 win two weeks ago. When the UW run game sputters, quarterback Scott Tolzien struggles. That means turnovers and that means this one won’t be nearly as close as most people think … Ohio State 41, Wisconsin 17. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Boston College(+22) at Florida State; Illinois at Michigan State (-7); Texas at Nebraska (-10); Iowa (-3) at Michigan; Utah (-20) at Wyoming; McNeese State at LSU (N/L); Iowa State at Oklahoma (-21½); Boise State (-40) at San Jose State; Mississippi (+20½) at Alabama; Ohio State (-4) at Wisconsin.

Enjoy the games and we’ll chat again next week.

Ohio State Wins Over Michigan Never Get Old

Sometimes I wonder if Ohio State football fans haven’t been brainwashed by the very propaganda they so often criticize.

The Buckeyes were in the process Nov. 21 of putting the finishing touches on a 21-10 victory at Michigan, another 10-win season and their third outright Big Ten championship in the last four years and you might have thought it was the Wolverines who were winning for the eighth time in the last nine years.

All I heard was how boring it had become to watch the Buckeyes grind out another victory in the series, how dull it was to watch the latest chapter of Tresselball wring any modicum of excitement from another OSU game.

There was actually a post on our own BuckeyeSports.com message board during the second half that read, “This is why I hate Jim Tressel. Run, run, run, run, run. This game is so boring. (Michigan) is terrible. We should be ahead by at least 35 points right now.”

Hate Jim Tressel? Really? If that is really the opinion of some Ohio State fans, then I have heard enough to know that I have heard too much.

First of all, Tressel certainly doesn’t need me to defend his coaching expertise. The bottom line speaks for itself, and that bottom line now shows six Big Ten championships in nine years, five straight seasons of 10 wins or more and more BCS bowl appearances than any other coach you care to mention.

Secondly, if you watched the Buckeyes dispatch the Wolverines on Nov. 21 and believe what you were watching was old-fashioned Tresselball, I suggest either a trip to the optometrist or less attention paid to what the blabbering bobbleheads from Bristol have to say.

National talking heads will look at 67 yards for Ohio State through the air and immediately pronounce another lackluster game in the outdated, run-oriented Big Ten and start puffing their chests about how there is no way the Buckeyes can beat any of the pass-happy teams they are likely to meet in the Rose Bowl.

None of them will have actually watched the OSU-Michigan game, of course. (Same problem with those who continue to insist the national title game against LSU was a blowout. It was not, but I digress.) There were two plays in this year’s edition of The Game that could have bloated the Buckeyes’ passing stats and turned an 11-point win into something much more substantial.

The first came with 5:12 to go in the second quarter with Ohio State holding a 14-3 lead. Michigan had just turned the ball over on the first of quarterback Tate Forcier’s four interceptions, and Tressel went for Rich Rodriguez’s jugular. On first down, DeVier Posey easily beat his defender on a fly pattern but Terrelle Pryor overthrew his receiver.

The second occurred on a similar play early in the fourth quarter with the Buckeyes protecting a 21-10 lead. Once again Posey easily outdistanced his coverage, but once again Pryor’s pass was too far for his intended receiver.

Only two plays, both of which were misfires, but the fact remains they were called by Tressel and had they been successful, the Buckeyes would have had at least two more touchdowns and at least 125 more yards through the air.

I attached the words “at least” to the preceding sentence because converting those two plays – especially the first one – could have completely altered the remainder of the game.

Had Pryor been able to connect with Posey on that second-quarter bomb, it would have given Ohio State a 21-3 advantage and would likely have caused a cave-in on the Michigan sideline. Then, the final score would probably have been something in the four- or five-touchdown range.

The long pass attempts to Posey weren’t the only non-Tresselball calls in the game. What about the misdirection counter plays? The screen pass in the red zone? Both went for touchdowns, yet all anyone seemed to want to talk about was the fact the Buckeyes ran the ball 51 times for 251 yards. Funny – when they ran it 43 times for 242 yards in last year’s 42-7 blowout, I don’t remember anyone bringing up Tresselball.

There is little doubt Tressel took his foot off the accelerator in the fourth quarter this year, but give the guy a little credit. He knew Michigan would have to begin to take some chances late and that freshman Forcier would have to try to force the issue. Not coincidentally, the Buckeyes chalked up three of their four interceptions in the final period.

Every head coach’s first commandment is to win the surest way, and Tressel’s record in Big Ten games is now 59-13 because he knows the surest way to victory. There is no doubt there are other coaches who are much flashier, but are their teams built for year-in, year-out success?

For example, how did Bob Stoops do at Oklahoma this season? How about Mike Leach at Texas Tech? June Jones at SMU or Bobby Petrino at Arkansas? Each of those supposed offensive gurus had winning seasons – barely – and combined for exactly zero championships.

High-octane attacks and footballs flying through the air grab the headlines. Always have and always will. But they don’t always translate into trophies.

Winning is, has been and always will be the bottom line and that goes double for Ohio State against Michigan. Beating the Wolverines never becomes boring and it never gets old.

DEATH IN THE FAMILY

I met Stefanie Spielman only once and that was several years ago. She was in a northern Columbus supermarket, and her mind was occupied with something important – trying to keep one of her small children from knocking off a huge display of canned green beans.

She knew me as nothing more than another in the long line of fans of her husband, but she couldn’t have been more pleasant or down-to-earth – a typical suburban mom who looked like the biggest thing weighing on her mind was the price of eggs.

I had no idea then just how much grit and determination Stefanie had going for her. Not long after our brief encounter, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, a disease she fought as hard as she could for 12 long years until she had no fight left.

When she died Nov. 19 at the age of 42, I remembered her from that day we met in that supermarket. I also remembered when her husband announced he was giving up professional football for a year to stay home and help her fight the disease.

If you know anything about Chris Spielman, you know that he would sooner give up his right arm than voluntarily miss a football game. He was a three-time All-American at Ohio State and a four-time Pro Bowler with the Detroit Lions. He once made a tackle for the Buckeyes without a helmet, and often said that he would have played professional football for free.

As it turned out, as great as Spielman was as a football player, he is an even better man.

Last month, Spielman talked with Canton Repository writer Todd Porter, and while he wouldn’t discuss his wife’s prognosis, he offered a glimpse into how their lives had changed over the years.

“I’m so grateful for the 25 years we’ve known each other and the 20 years we’ve been married,” Spielman said. “I wouldn’t change a thing. The tough parts? That’s life. Life is going through good things and bad things.

“I think we’ve been given certain assignments in life. I like to think we’ve done the best we could for (cancer survivors) in service as opposed to shutting down. Hopefully, we’ve been able to make a difference with the monies raised and the people we met and talked to … This is an honorable and humbling journey we’ve been on. It’s something that is way bigger than being a football guy.”

Those outside the Buckeye Nation will likely continue to look at Spielman as just “a football guy.” Those of us in and around Columbus know better.

During this Thanksgiving holiday season, we give thanks for people like Chris and Stefanie Spielman, people who enrich our lives just by living their own.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY

** Twenty-seven years ago today, the pupil finally beat the teacher and a legend coached his final regular-season game. On Nov. 27, 1982, Auburn running back Bo Jackson rushed for 114 yards and led the Tigers to a 23-22 victory over Alabama. It was the final regular-season game for Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, who finished a 38-year career with 323 victories. The game also marked a milestone for Auburn head coach Pat Dye. He became the first former Bryant assistant to beat the legendary coach in 30 attempts since 1970.

** Also occurring during this week in college football history: On Nov. 24, 1938, Texas scored a 7-6 upset win over Texas A&M, allowing the Longhorns to avoid a winless season; on Nov. 28, 1942, unranked Holy Cross scored a 55-12 rout of No. 1 Boston College, the most lopsided loss ever for a top-ranked team; on Nov. 28, 1981, No. 11 Penn State trounced No. 1 Pittsburgh by a 48-14 score, the largest winning margin in NCAA history for a ranked team over a No. 1 team; and on Nov. 29, 1935, Chicago halfback Jay Berwanger was named the winner of the inaugural Downtown Athletic Club Trophy as the outstanding college football player of the year. The following year, the award would be renamed the Heisman Trophy.

** The Ohio State football program also marks an anniversary this week. On Nov. 25, 1916, the Buckeyes took a 23-3 victory over Northwestern to cap a 7-0 season and earn the school’s first Big Ten championship. It was the first of a league-record 18 (and counting) outright championships and 34 overall conference titles for the Buckeyes.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** A nightmare scenario for the BCS is rapidly getting closer as six undefeated teams remain in Division I-A. Alabama, Boise State, Cincinnati, Florida, Texas and TCU are hanging around with unblemished records, each retaining their own claim for the national title. If only there was a way of determining the champion on the field. A playoff perhaps?

** We know at least one of the aforementioned teams will have a defeat on its ledger since Florida and Alabama will face one another in the SEC championship game, but the loser is still virtually assured of a BCS at-large berth. With automatic conference tie-ins further limiting the field, there is probably no way Boise State and TCU both get BCS bids – and that would be a travesty.

** Nike’s so-called Pro Combat uniforms were 1-1 last weekend. Ohio State wore them in its 21-10 victory over Michigan while Oklahoma donned the new duds and received a 41-13 drubbing from Texas Tech.

** In his first two seasons at Michigan, Rich Rodriguez has lost 13 Big Ten games. It took Bo Schembechler 13 seasons to lost 13 league games.

** Indiana may not be going to a bowl game this season, but it doesn’t look like head coach Bill Lynch is going anywhere. The bottom line for any coach in trouble is wins and losses, but attendance is certainly 1A on that list and the Hoosiers averaged better than 40,000 fans in Memorial Stadium this season. That is the first time the team has done that well at the gate in 17 years.

** It should be a very merry Christmas this year in the household of Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney household. Because the Tigers have advanced to the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game, an incentive clause in Swinney’s contract kicks his salary from $800,000 to around $1.8 million next season.

** For those of you who believe Florida head coach Urban Meyer when he says he is not interested in the Notre Dame job should it become available, remember this: Once upon a time, Thad Matta said he was not interested in leaving Xavier for Ohio State.

** During last week’s 63-20 win over New Mexico State, Nevada running back Luke Lippincott ran for 162 yards and the Wolf Pack became the first team in NCAA history to have three 1,000-yard rushers in the same season. Lippincott (1,028 yards) joins Vai Taua (1,185) and quarterback Colin Kaepernick (1,129) on the nation’s No. 1 rushing offense. Nevada has averaged 445.6 yards on the ground over its last eight games – topping 500 yards three times – and the Wolf Pack averages 373.2 for the season.

** I received my Heisman Trophy voting instructions last week. (We used to have the option of voting by paper ballot or online; now we can only vote online.) My top three has been pretty unwavering over the past several weeks: 1. Texas QB Colt McCoy; 2. Alabama RB Mark Ingram; 3. Boise State QB Kellen Moore. I know there is a lot of sentiment for Florida QB Tim Tebow, but I don’t think he has had a season that outshines my top three. I guarantee you I will not vote until after the conference championship games, giving me one last chance to watch McCoy, Ingram and Tebow.

** You probably know Florida still has the nation’s longest current win streak at 21 games. You may not know Western Kentucky has the longest losing streak at the I-A level. The Hilltoppers have lost 18 straight, and that has cost head coach David Elson his job. WKU has already hired Stanford assistant Willie Taggart as Elson’s replacement. Taggart is completing his third season on Jim Harbaugh’s staff at Stanford, but he played and coached at Western Kentucky for more than a decade before that.

** Congratulations to Tom Thompson, the 61-year-old walk-on kicker at Division III Austin College in Texas. Thompson converted a PAT for the Kangaroos last weekend in a 41-10 loss to instate rival Trinity, and became the oldest person ever to play in a college football game.

FEARLESS FORECAST

Another great week, including one of two Upset Specials, led to a 16-3 record with the straight-up forecast. The yearly SU total is now 101-25, good enough for Jim Tressel-like winning percentage of .802.

Against the spread, we finally had a winning week at 11-7 but we’re still Rich Rodriguez-like for the season at 53-59-2. Here are the games we like this week.

TODAY’S GAMES

Illinois at No. 5 Cincinnati: Ron Zook scheduled two games for his Fighting Illini after Thanksgiving to make sure they wouldn’t go stale between the end of the regular season and the bowl game. Of course, for that strategy to mean anything you first have to get to a bowl game … Cincinnati 45, Illinois 24. (12 noon ET, ABC)

No. 2 Alabama at Auburn: The Tigers have six of the last seven Iron Bowls, and Auburn has unheralded RB Ben Tate (1,209 yards, 8 TDs). But the Tide counters with Heisman hopeful Mark Ingram (1,399 yards, 12 TDs) and a much better defense … Alabama 27, Auburn 10. (2:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 9 Pittsburgh at West Virginia: With the one-two punch of QB Bill Stull (2,115 yards, 18 TDs) and RB Dion Lewis (1,291 yards, 13 TDs), the Panthers just have too much offense for the Mountaineers … Pittsburgh 27, West Virginia 17. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Nevada at No. 6 Boise State: If anyone is going to derail the Broncos, it could be the Wolf Pack. They have won eight straight and averaged 55.6 points over their last five games, thanks mostly to the nation’s No. 1 running attack. Boise counters with a quick-strike attack that features the best scoring offense in the country. If you like offense, stay up late and enjoy the fireworks … Boise State 49, Nevada 45. (10 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 24 North Carolina at North Carolina State: The Wolfpack scored a 41-10 blowout win last season, but UNC has shored up its defense. Also, the Tar Heels are plus-5 in turnover margin while the Pack is minus-13 … North Carolina 28, N.C. State 17. (12 noon ET, ESPN2)

No. 18 Clemson at South Carolina: The Tigers hold a 65-37-4 advantage in the all-time series, including victories in the last two games, six of the last seven and 10 of the last 12. Sounds like a trend … Clemson 31, South Carolina 17.  (12 noon ET, ESPN)

No. 25 Mississippi at Mississippi State: Why is this rivalry known as the Egg Bowl? Because the large object atop the trophy that goes to the winner more resembles a golden egg than a football. The Rebels will have the inside track on the SEC’s berth in the Capital One Bowl with a win … Mississippi 23, Mississippi State 14. (12:20 p.m. ET, SEC Network/ESPN GamePlan)

No. 12 Oklahoma State at Oklahoma: The Cowboys are hopeful of snapping a six-year losing streak to the injury-riddled Sooners. But OU won’t give up easily, especially protecting a 29-game home win streak on Senior Day. Regardless of what the oddsmakers say, this is an Upset Special … Oklahoma 27, Oklahoma State 23. (12:30 p.m. ET, FSN)

New Mexico at No. 4 TCU: Congratulations to the Lobos for avoiding a winless season with last week’s 29-27 win over Colorado State. Their reward? A trip to Fort Worth to play what many regard as the best team in the country this year … TCU 56, New Mexico 7. (1 p.m. ET, The Mtn.)

Florida State at No. 1 Florida: This could be the final regular-season game for the respective head coaches at these schools. Bobby Bowden may ride off into forced retirement while Notre Dame could make Urban Meyer an offer he can’t refuse … Florida 37, Florida State 20. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 14 Virginia Tech at Virginia: One of the best freshmen in the country resides in the Hokies’ backfield, and Ryan Williams (1,355 yards, 15 TDs) should get plenty of chances to pad his numbers against a porous Cavaliers’ defense … Virginia Tech 31, Virginia 13. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 17 Miami (Fla.) at South Florida: You can check out two of the nation’s best young quarterbacks in Miami sophomore Jacory Harris (3,003 yards, 21 TDs) and USF freshman B.J. Daniels (2,200 all-purpose yards, 17 TDs). Mistakes will likely determine the winner, and the Bulls have a slight edge in defense. Upset Special No. 2 … South Florida 20, Miami 17. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC Regional/ESPN GamePlan)

No. 21 Utah at No. 19 BYU: Senior QB Max Hall has had a solid career for the Cougars, but he has never played well against the Utes. That includes a career-high five interceptions during last year’s 48-24 loss, and doesn’t bode well in a series that Utah has dominated of late. Upset Special No. 3 … Utah 37, BYU 24. (5 p.m. ET, The Mtn.)

Arkansas at No. 15 LSU: An interesting matchup between two former Michigan Men. Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett and LSU head coach Les Miles. Of course, Miles could be headed back to Ann Arbor whenever the Wolverines want to pull the plug on the Rich Rodriguez experiment, and right about now the Tigers would probably make that deal. But we digress … LSU 30, Arkansas 24. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Georgia at No. 7 Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets beat the Bulldogs last year for the first time since 2000 and now try for their first home win in the series since 1999. Since no one else has been able to shut down Tech’s triple-option attack, it’s doubtful UGA can, either … Georgia Tech 33, Georgia 24. (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

Rice at No. 23 Houston: The over/under number for yardage by Cougars quarterback Case Keenum (4,599 yards, 36 TDs) ought to be around 500 since the Owls rank 107th nationally in pass defense … Houston 55, Rice 20. (8 p.m. ET, CSS)

Notre Dame at Stanford: Do you think Jim Harbaugh would like anything better than to beat Notre Dame and send Charlie Weis packing? … Stanford 45, Notre Dame 31. (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

UCLA at No. 20 USC: We’ll admit it. It’s been kind of fun to watch Pete Carroll have that deer-in-the-headlights look while his team was being eviscerated by Oregon and Stanford. Back to reality this week … USC 24, UCLA 17. (10 p.m. ET, FSN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Illinois at Cincinnati (-20½); Alabama (-10) at Auburn; Pitt (PK) at West Virginia (PK); Nevada (+14) at Boise State; North Carolina (-5½) at N.C. State; Clemson (-3) at South Carolina; Mississippi (-7½) at Mississippi State; Oklahoma State (+10) at Oklahoma; New Mexico at TCU (-44); Florida State (+24½) at Florida; Virginia Tech (-15) at Virginia; Miami-FL at South Florida (+5½); Utah (+8) at BYU; Arkansas at LSU (-3½); Georgia at Georgia Tech (-7½); Rice at Houston (-24); Notre Dame at Stanford (-10); UCLA (+13½)  at USC.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.